Velvet Underground

File Under: Rock & Roll, Curtain Calls

Velvet Underground
Live at Max's Kansas City: Deluxe Edition
Rhino/Atlantic

While not their best live album (1969: Velvet Underground Livetakes that honor), Live at Max's Kansas City: Deluxe Edition captures a moment for the Velvet Underground that was probably one of their most fascinating: their very last days with Lou Reed, far from their noisy experimental beginnings, and working out songs for their underrated last album, Loaded, as well as playing some classics along the way. Originally recorded by New York scenester Brigid Polk in August 1970 during the group's residency at the club, the deluxe edition documents Reed's final two shows in their entirety, instead of just the handpicked songs that filled out the original. The new version of this fan classic proves you can't exactly reinvent the wheel; even with the new and improved sound quality, there are still faults such as the audible squeaking of Polk's mono tape recorder. But the true beauty of this recording is and always will be the ambience—like the guy in the club asking for double Pernods so he can drop tuinals "immediately." It's obvious here the Velvets are a much different band than in 1969, chiefly because Maureen Tucker's sparse drumming was replaced by what she calls in the liner notes 17-year-old Billy Yule's "fills and frills." But the band still turns in performances off Loaded that rip the studio versions to shreds, as well as such white-hot updates as the breakneck "Beginning to See the Light." Disc two is a showcase for Reed, singing compositions originally written for Nico ("Femme Fatale," "Sunday Morning") and a somber "Candy Says." For a casual listener, it's a letdown—this Velvet Underground isn't as easy to swallow as those tuinals—but fans and even historians will appreciate this expanded version: a night a little closer to lasting forever and a phenomenal band at curtain call.

 
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