By 1972, the Velvet Underground, arguably the most influential cult band of all time, was effectively dead, all of the original members having departed the project. Reports of animosity and rancor at the end may be exaggerated; whether the tensions that split the band apart were primarily inner or outer hardly matters at this point. But the still-performing members continued to support each other in some fashion for the remainder of their careers, and the band’s three singers even reunited for a one-off acoustic concert in Paris of that year to perform a set of classic Velvet tracks as well as songs from their solo albums.
The audio of this reunion circulated for years as a bootleg before its official release in 2004. Video of the concert at Le Bataclan, originally broadcast on French television, preserves the evening, edited into segments and shuffling the original song order.
First, Lou Reed sings “Berlin” (top), a torch song he purportedly wrote about Nico (watch her look on as he sings). Reed calls it his “Barbara Streisand song.” Next, watch Cale and Reed do a version of “Waiting for My Man” (above).
You can watch a longer version of the concert broadcast here, with performances from Reed, Cale, and Nico intercut with talky segments between French journalists. This concert, and the various bootlegs and official live releases, may not be essential listening for casual VU fans, but Philip Shelley’s comment on the live recordings may apply equally to the film: “if you appreciate the fleeting revelations to be found in snapshots, then this may be just the bit of quicksilver for you, a unique moment in musical history just before these three erstwhile Jekylls became forever Hydes.”
A Symphony of Sound (1966): Velvet Underground Improvises, Warhol Films It, Until the Cops Turn Up
Nico Sings “Chelsea Girls” in the Famous Chelsea Hotel
Rock and Roll Heart, 1998 Documentary Retraces the Remarkable Career of Lou Reed
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him at @jdmagness
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