The Velvet Underground :: The Second Fret, Philadelphia, January 1970

If you’re a VU fanatic, you’ve no doubt checked out some pretty shitty-sounding bootlegs, desperately listening through the hiss, echo and murk to get your live Velvets fix (it’s your wife and it’s your life, after all). But who cares? Such is the power of the band that they can make even the muddiest of tapes sound like gold. Take this reel-to-reel capture of an early 1970 set (recently booted on vinyl if that’s where you get your kicks). It’s not the complete show, but it’s a blast, presenting the VU just before drummer Moe Tucker went on maternity leave. There are fiery renditions of “White Light / White Heat,” “Sister Ray” and “Foggy Notion” (Sterling Morrison sounding especially killer on the latter tune). There’s a rare take on the lovely “Over You,” for some reason never attempted in the studio — here, Lou Reed calls it his “Billie Holiday impersonation.” And then there’s “Sweet Jane,” still in its original, slow-and-steady incarnation, Reed making up lyrics as he goes. Lo-fi quality? Yeah. Hi-fi experience? Oh yeah. Turn it up and take it for a ride ride. | t wilcox

White Light White Heat / Sweet Jane / Over You / Foggy Notion / Sister Ray 

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