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When a band decides to cover an iconic record in its entirety, it can really go a number of ways. But in the case of Regurgitator performing The Velvet Underground and Nico, it went the only way anyone could have expected it to. The way of the Gurge. What was originally intended to be a one-off performance has since turned into a successful touring tribute show, and a very balmy Tuesday evening spent in the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent was no exception. Regurgitator certainly rode a wave of nostalgia in every sense of the word and put on a unique performance to a sold out crowd as a part of the annual Sydney Festival.
It should definitely be noted, the venue itself was incredibly beautiful and the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent is set to host some key attractions for the duration of the festival. A reimagined big top engulfed by a haze of red and blue lighting presented the perfect backdrop for an evening of musical re-imagination.
Musically, it was definitely an experience, specifically enhanced by the pure passion and enthusiasm of both Ben Ely and Quan Yeomans. Both artists firmly set their sights on presenting a unique tribute to a record they admire so much. Their attempt to recreate the psychedelic ambience commanded by the original record did not go unnoticed, and from the opening track it was evident that the whole show was meant to be a sensory experience, paying homage to something much bigger.
The tone on stage was jovial and did at times border on misguided nonchalance. But this was perhaps part of the overall charm of the performance, which was, at its core, a passionate display of musicianship and a well-intentioned tribute to iconic record. Ben Ely in particular, appeared incredibly relaxed on stage, easing comfortably into the album as the tracks sailed by. Although he did pull out all the stops to nail key songs such as the standout hit ‘Heroin’, revealing to the crowd, “I’ve actually tried heroin so I’ll sing this one”.
This supposed method approach to artistry certainly paid off, as the track was as haunting as ever, and his rendition sent a slow shudder through the crowd. ‘Run Run Run’ was also another key standout, with the band as a whole really nailing the clash of ’60s nostalgia with the dirty guitar stylings of today, and in turn, encouraging some very enthusiastic slam dancing from the punters in the front row. What was flawlessly spot-on, though, were the vocal stylings of Seja Vogel, with tracks like ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ surfacing as a purposeful left of centre demonstration of lyrical genius. A true celebration of the original, her vocal stoicism never wavered, fluttering the hearts of the traditionalists amongst the crowd.
The eclectic mix of punters made for a unique, albeit slightly strange, crowd experience. It became apparent that some were purists, expecting an exact re-enactment of the musings of Lou Reed and the gang, whilst others were there to revive some ’90s nostalgia, driven by innate curiosity. Still, a tiny minority kind of missed the point and the fine print entirely, with murmurs of “but why didn’t they play Polyester Girl?” circulating through the milling crowd as the call for an encore fell on deaf ears.
Although their tribute series may not necessarily be for the purists, Regurgitator’s rendition of the The Velvet Underground and Nico saw the band deliver passionate performances. Neither wavered from their original intention, which was to put their unique spin on a timeless classic and honestly just have a bloody good time. Curious music fans will not be disappointed.
Image: Regurgitator play The Velvet Underground for 2017 Sydney Festival / Photo: Jamie Williams