Watch The Velvet Underground’s Album ‘Loaded’ Performed Live
Nov 15, 2020
10:09 am PST
The Velvet Underground’s album Loaded was released 50 years ago today. It was the final album Lou Reed recorded as a member of The Velvet Underground, which he co-founded in New York City in 1964 with guitarist Sterling Morrison, multi-instrumentalist John Cale and Angus MacLise whose tenure lasted only until 1965 when Moe Tucker replaced him on drums.
The original lineup, with German vocalist Nico, released the band’s debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico in 1967. They followed that record (sans Nico) with 1968’s White Light/White Heat. Cale departed before the third The Velvet Underground album, the 1969 self-titled LP, which was the first to include multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule.
Reed, Morrison and Yule were responsible for recording Loaded, which was released on November 15, 1970 by Cotillion Records. Tucker was on maternity leave, so Yule played drums on the eight tracks that made up Loaded. Yule also sang lead on half of the songs, “Who Loves the Sun,” “New Age,” “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” and “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.”
After Reed established a successful solo career, he continued to perform several of the songs on Loaded live in concert. Many other musicians have drawn from Loaded for their live setlists. Below are videos of each of the eight songs on Loaded performed live over the years by a wide range of artists. The list begins with Phish’s complete cover of Loaded as their musical costume in Las Vegas on Halloween 1998. Videos of each of the other songs being played live either in concert or for a studio session follow the footage of Phish.
In 2013, Wilco played a special all-covers set at their Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, Massachusetts. Among the many covers performed that night was the opening track off Loaded, Who Loves The Sun,” which can be viewed above.
An all-star concert was held on September 2, 1995 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in celebration of the opening of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Museum the day before. While The Velvet Underground would have to wait until 1996 to be inducted into the Rock Hall, Lou Reed was part of the concert in Cleveland in ’95. Backed by Minneapolis-based alt-rockers Soul Asylum, the video above features their collaborative rendition of “Sweet Jane” from the historic event.
Singer-songwriter Kevin Morby has often cited Lou Reed and the VU as early influences. In the video above, Morby covers “Rock & Roll” with guest Sam Cohen during Morby’s show at The Bowery Ballroom in New York City in May 2017. The concert was part of Morby’s tour in support of City Music, which was itself heavily influenced by Reed.
“Rock & Roll” is the lone Loaded track that became a staple of Phish setlists after Vegas ’98. The band played “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” prior to their Halloween set, and continued playing it a few times after. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” has been covered a few more times, and the same goes for “Sweet Jane.” “Who Loves the Sun,” “I Found a Reason” and “Head Held High” have each been played once more since Halloween ’98. Phish has covered “Cool It Down” on eight other occasions since its debut in Vegas. The most recent was on December 1, 2019, footage of which can be seen above.
Singer-songwriter Tori Amos often weaves her arrangments of other people’s songs into her compelling live shows. The Loaded track “New Age” has long been part of Amos’ repertoire, dating back to at least 2001. The video above captures her solo rendition of “New Age” from a November 2014 concert at QPAC Concert Hall in Brisbane, Australia.
My Morning Jacket has covered several songs off Loaded, including “Sweet Jane” and “Rock & Roll” each once, and “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” a few times. “Head Held High” has also made more than one MMJ setlist, though like the others, maintains rarity stature. The video of “Head Held High” above goes back to October 2010 and MMJ encore at Terminal 5 in New York City.
Nashville rockers Those Darlins sadly performed their final concert in 2016. The group went on hiatus at the time, while Jessi Zazu underwent treatment for cervical cancer. Zazu was only 28-years-old when she died in September 2017. The above video is of Those Darlins, with Zazu on lead vocals, covering “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” during a session for WNRN public radio at Virginia Arts Recording studio in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Lou Reed, prior to his death in October 2013, participated in several Tibet House Benefit Concerts organized by Philip Glass and held annually in New York City. Reed’s friend and contemporary, Patti Smith, has been a fixture of the benefit concerts that each year bring together an all-star lineup of musicians at the historic Carnegie Hall. In 2018, the Tibet House Benefit Concert lineup included Smith and her band, along with singer-songwriter Angel Olsen and others. Olsen was backed by the Patti Smith Band on a rendition of “I Found A Reason,” which is captured in the above video.
New York City-based Hollis Brown was part of an all-star tribute concert held in honor of Reed shortly after his death billed as “Last Great American Whale: A Concert in Memory of Lou Reed.” The event took place at New York City’s Bowery Electric and featured Hollis Brown covering all of Loaded, just as Phish had 15 years earlier. Hollis Brown went on to record a studio version of Loaded, which was issued as Get Loaded in 2014. Their version of “Train Round The Bend” can be seen in the video above from a show in Madrid, Spain that same year.
One of the most widely covered songs on Loaded is the “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’, the eighth and final track on the LP. Beginning in 2009, The Black Crowes joined those ranks when they added “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” to their setlists during sessions held before live audiences at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York, which later were released as the album, Before the Frost…Until the Freeze. Sung by guitarist Rich Robinson, watch The Crowes cover the Loaded closing track at Levon Helm Studios above.