They’ve never done it before. And they may never do it again. On Oct. 13, 2018, at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, The Feelies devoted their entire first set to songs by one of the bands that have influenced them the most: The Velvet Underground. (Click HERE for my concert review.)
They were wise to have Scott Anthony of Storybook Sound in Maplewood — who worked on their last studio album, 2017’s In Between, and other Feelies projects — record it. And they and the Hoboken-based record label Bar/None have made a good move by releasing it as The Feelies’ first concert album, titled Some Kinda Love: Performing the Songs of The Velvet Underground. It came out as a digital download and via streaming platforms on Oct. 13, and will be released as a CD and as a double vinyl album on Nov. 10.
The Feelies played 18 VU songs, starting with the leadoff track from the band’s first studio album (The Velvet Underground & Nico), “Sunday Morning,” and ending with the closer from its final studio album (Loaded), “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.” The set included some of the band’s signature songs (e.g., “Sweet Jane,” “Rock & Roll,” “I’m Waiting for the Man”) but not others: There was no “Heroin” or “Venus in Furs” or “Sister Ray,” for instance, in it. The song used in the headline of this article, “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” isn’t there, either, nor is “Some Kinda Love,” despite providing the album’s name. But none of that is a problem, since some of the highlights came from intense versions of lesser-known songs such as “Run Run Run” (listen below), “I Heard Her Call My Name” and “Head Held High.”
The band’s lineup includes Glenn Mercer and Bill Million on guitar and vocals, Brenda Sauter on bass and vocals, Dave Weckerman on percussion and keyboards, and Stan Demeski on drums. Mercer, who handles most of the lead vocals, does a good job of evoking Lou Reed’s gruffly commanding delivery. The guitar solos on songs like “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “White Light/White Heat” are in the same exploratory, artfully abrasive spirit of the Velvet Underground at its best, and the rhythm section gives songs like “Rock & Roll” and “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” the feverish rush they need.
Taking over on lead vocals, Sauter manages to evoke the spirit of both the imperious, remote Nico on “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and the unassuming, down-to-earth Maureen Tucker on “After Hours.” “Who Love the Sun” is brightened by sweet, warmly textured backing vocals.
James Mastro and Richard Barone, members of the fellow New Jersey-based band (and longtime friends of The Feelies) The Bongos, help out on two late-set highlights. Mastro adds some guitar muscle to “I Can’t Stand It” and Barone plays guitar on the majestic ballad “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ ” (listen below), as well as singing lead on some of it.
As I wrote in my original concert review, “Back in the ’80s, The Feelies and The Bongos were the two bands that did the most to establish a nationally recognized alt-rock scene in Hoboken. The participation by both Barone and Mastro in this show underscored the point that that scene was, in many ways, built on what the Velvet Underground started in the ’60s.” (Coincidentally, The Feelies and The Bongos both performed at the Hoboken Arts and Music Festival, earlier this month.)
I should probably add that the Hoboken alt-rock scene wasn’t unique in having a strong Velvet Underground influence. So did many other scenes, throughout the world. It’s always a good thing to remind people of that, as this album does in a deeply resonant way.
Here is the setlist for The Feelies’ first set at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, 10/13/18, which is heard on Some Kinda Love: Performing the Songs of The Velvet Underground in its entirety.
“Who Loves the Sun”
“There She Goes Again”
“What Goes On”
“Head Held High”
“I’m Waiting for the Man”
“White Light/White Heat”
“I Heard Her Call My Name”
“That’s the Story of My Life”
“All Tomorrow’s Parties”
“Rock & Roll”
“We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together”
“Run Run Run”
“I Can’t Stand It” (with James Mastro)
“Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ ” (with Richard Barone)
For more information on the album, visit thefeeliesweb.com.
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