All music fans have a list of acts that they wish they’d seen in their pomp: for me, it’s Otis Redding, Syd-era Floyd and the Smiths. But what about the bands you love, but know were abysmal as a live proposition?
For me, it’s the Velvet Underground: as a teenager, I was obsessed with their looks, their attitude and their sound. White Light/White Heat remains my favourite album ever, and I still contend that they are the most influential American rock band of all time, albeit with the Beach Boys and the Ramones snapping at their heels.
But on the available evidence (Max’s Kansas City, 1969, MCMXCIII, the Quine Tapes and various bits and pieces on box sets and bootlegs) they were pretty hopeless live. The simmering tension and rivalry between Lou Reed and John Cale, then Reed and Doug Yule, that made for such a delicious dialectic in the studio, translates as incoherence on stage. Reed’s nonchalance becomes petulance; the brutal simplicity of Moe Tucker’s drumming is just an annoying thumping sound. (And the stuff without Moe is by definition VU-lite anyway – Loaded has always been my least favourite studio album.)
So, over to you: an act you adore, but that you’re glad you never paid cash to see; or you’re sorry that you did.