Essential New Music: The Feelies’ “Some Kinda Love: Performing The Music Of The Velvet Underground”

Feelies concerts are the stuff of legend. Setlists might not change much from decade to decade (hell, the band might just take a decade off), but the Feelies’ taut energy and accelerating pace never flag. So, it might seem perverse that when, 47 years after their origin, they finally get around to releasing a live album, it contains none of their songs. Some Kinda Love presents a one-off concert played Oct. 13, 2018, at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City during which the quintet—with occasional assistance from James Mastro and Richard Barone of the Bongos—performed 18 songs by the Velvet Underground.

Well, the Feelies have never played by anyone else’s rules. And if you can get past your disappointment at not being able to put the spectacle of them hurtling through “Crazy Rhythms” at double the speed of its recorded version on repeat, the choice makes sense. With the possible exception of Yo La Tengo, there’s no band on earth so uniquely suited to play the music of the Velvet Underground. For not only did Lou Reed and Co. record some extraordinarily enduring songs, they imbued them with distinctive sounds that many have imitated, but few have been able to do justice. Certainly, the various members of the Velvet Underground made it a point not to play ‘em the way the used to whenever they covered their old band’s songs.

But the Feelies braided that Velvets sound into their own DNA. Their performances on Some Kinda Love replicate not only the alternately lyrical and explosive guitar sounds and no-beats-wasted rhythms of the originals, they play them with an intimate familiarity that says, “This is our music, too.” For a start, Glenn Mercer and Brenda Sauter sing the songs in their own distinguishing voices. But the band’s playing is true not only to the sounds, but the spirit, delivering the poignancy of “New Age,” the blown-up tragedy of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and the abandon of “We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together.”

Along the way, they duplicate the feel of a Feelies concert, too. There’s the same arc from a low-key, kinda-shambling start to a sudden kick into gear followed by a full-throttle rocket through the open-ended jams. The only thing missing is the half-dozen-encores ritual, which they skip in favor of a beautifully elegiac rendering of “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.” (To be fair, that night, the band played an additional 19 songs after its VU set.) Like any Feelies concert, Some Kinda Love is not about being surprised, but about surrendering yourself to a familiar yet deeply felt thrill.

—Bill Meyer