John Cale, Nick Cave and Chrissie Hynde covering The Velvet Underground live
In the summer of 1999, John Cale, Nick Cave and Chrissie Hynde joined forces for a miraculous acoustic concert at London’s Subterania Club. It would be the meeting of underground legends and see a suitably thirsty cult descend on the venue.
Placed together by the BBC’s culture programming team, the trio would be taking part in their ever-popular series ‘The Songwriters Circle’. Chrissie Hynde, of The Pretenders fame, ran through four renditions of her songs in the show which stretched close to an hour in total.
Cale, who performed five songs—which includes a backstage effort—opted to focus predominantly on tracks taken from his 1974 album Fear. Nick Cave, the ultimate Aussie rocker, meanwhile, chipped in with four songs taken from four different Bad Seeds albums.
While the performance was enthralling from start to finish as Cave and Cale flipped from acoustic guitar to piano, hinting at the promise of what a dual tour might look like, the climactic moment came with the final performance of the evening.
Amid the applause, Hynde took to the microphone to ask the crowd: “If you were us, wouldn’t you want to feel like you were in The Velvet Underground just that one time?” Confirming her assumptions the crowd collectively gasp, the camera then pans to Cale who has a big smile on his face before hitting the keys.
Sharing the vocals that Lou Reed made famous upon the song’s release in 1967, Cave and Cale share the piano as Hynde takes the lead on the acoustic guitar as the trio perform a cover of the Velvet Underground’s classic ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’.
The song acts as the archetypal ditty for the Kings of New York’s cool. A subversive and salacious song about drugs all wrapped up in a pop song — perfect. The track has since been picked up by countless artists as one of the anthemic moments the Velvet Underground provided.
While the entirety of the show is a must-watch for any fan of the three star performers, even if you aren’t a fan, you need to listen to their expert cover.
Below, enjoy the performance and, further down, the full video.
John Cale, Nick Cave and Chrissie Hynde ‘Songwriters Circle’ setlist:
00:00 – ‘Ship Of Fools’ (John Cale – Filmed Backstage) 01:05 – ‘Thoughtless Kind’ (John Cale) 03:32 – ‘Talk of The Town’ (Chrissie Hynde) 07:19 – ‘West Country Girl’ (Nick Cave) 09:31 – ‘Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend’ (John Cale) 14:03 – ‘Kid’ (Chrissie Hynde) 17:42 – ‘Henry Lee’ (Nick Cave) 21:14 – ‘Dying On The Vine’ (John Cale) 25:18 – ‘I’ll Stand By You’ (Chrissie Hynde) 29:44 – ‘Into My Arms’ (Nick Cave) 34:32 – ‘Ship Of Fools’ (John Cale) 39:33 – ‘Back on the Chain Gang’ (Chrissie Hynde) 43:29 – ‘The Ship Song’ (Nick Cave) 46:53 – I’’m Waiting For The Man’ (All Three)