The National’s lead singer has been promoting his debut solo LP Serpentine Prison, an album that has more to do with interpersonal drama than drug addiction. His decision to cover the pioneering art-rock track might seem strange, but based on The Tonight Show set, it’s as simple as Berninger enjoying the hell out of the tune.
His basso profundo voice is a weak fit for Lou Reed’s tenor melody, and Berninger compensates with one of the most energetic late-night performances of his long career. He swings around the mic stand, gyrates his hips, waves his arms back and forth, and dances across the stage. He doesn’t try to capture a strung-out junkie waiting for the plug, and instead gives way to the overwhelming joy of a perfect song. Check it out below.
In October, Berninger brought the Serpentine Prison cut “One More Second” to Colbert. Last month, he tapped Future Islands for a “One More Second” remix. And if you can’t get enough of VU, Todd Hayne’s documentary The Velvet Underground was recently acquired by Apple TV+.