A classic record gets an intriguing makeover as much-loved Australian band Regurgiator collaborated with Seja and Mindy Meng Wang to perform the essential 1967 album The Velvet Underground & Nico.
There’s certainly a case for claiming that 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico album (with that distinctive banana cover) is as culturally significant as the same year’s Sgt. Pepper’s. In pure art/garage/shock/whatever rock terms it’s even more influential, so there was rather a lot riding on this promisingly eccentric-sounding one-off performance. It was also obvious that the Regurgitator trio along with German-Australian muso Seja and Chinese guzheng player Mindy Meng Wang were somehow hoping to recreate the 11 songs with great respect while also boldly reinventing them, and if it didn’t always quite work, there were nevertheless moments that really rocked out big time.
The kick-off, Sunday Morning, had a few sound problems, but the second offering, the celebrated drug-love tune I’m Waiting for the Man, was terrific, even if Mindy’s very fine string work got a bit lost in the mix of the ‘Gurge guys’ crunchy guitars. Seja’s keyboard and technical labours were strong, and when she sang Nico’s tracks (especially All Tomorrow’s Parties and I’ll be Your Mirror), she just about matched the late, great and much-mythologised Andy Warhol superstar.
Much fun was had knocking off the sado-masochistic classic Venus in Furs and the un-PC ode-to-shooting-up epic Heroin, and the whole quintet wound everything up by almost feverishly overhauling the album’s last two pieces: The Black Angel’s Death Song (using samples instead of live lyrics) and European Son, which is more of a poem on the record but here was rethought as a final rock-out with all five players tearing up the joint with glee.
The awfully-hard-to-please Velvet purists present on the night were very happy indeed, and you couldn’t help thinking that even the late lamented Lou Reed might have smiled – if only for a moment.
Regurgitator & Seja & Mindy Meng Wang performed at Space Theatre on Friday, September 30