Nico steals the show at Velvets' short-lived reunion

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Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico – Le Bataclan ’72

A belated but entirely welcome release for this live recording of the legendary concert at Le Bataclan in Paris, which in February ’72 briefly reunited the Velvet Underground trio four years after Lou Reed had acrimoniously engineered Cale’s reluctant departure from the astonishing early line-up.

Although Cale is a brilliant looming presence here on electric viola, his ‘solo’ turn?”Ghost Story” from Vintage Violence, the surreal clapalong “The Biggest, Loudest, Hairiest Group Of All”, which to my knowledge never troubled his repertoire again, and a version of “Empty Bottles”, a song originally written for Jennifer Warnes?is completely upstaged by sensational turns from Reed and Nico.

Lou takes the lead on covers of three songs from The Velvet Underground And Nico?a fantastically cool, slowed-down and slovenly “I’m Waiting For The Man”, and hair-raising takes on “The Black Angel’s Death Song” and “Heroin”. He also weighs in with “Berlin” and a brilliant “Wild Child” from his first solo album, released a few months later.

Against the odds, it’s Nico who steals the show with her five featured tracks. Introducing “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, she sounds utterly smacked-out, nervous and vulnerable. Listening to her belting out “No One Is There” and “Frozen Warnings” from the immortal The Marble Index, however, is like being blasted by something elemental. “Janitor Of Lunacy”, a posthumous lament for Brian Jones, meanwhile, is a reminder that Nico’s head must often have been a very frightening place to be. Essential listening, in an overworked phrase.