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Lou Reed - Barbican, London, 28/5/2003

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 11 / 6 / 2003



Lou Reed - Barbican, London, 28/5/2003

intro

Lou Reed has taken something of a critical battering in recent times, but Anthony Strutt watches the ex-Velvet Underground frontman and "master of his craft" play an accomplished two and a half hour set at the London Barbican


Tonight's concert is sold out, but there are few on the look out for return tickets and no sign of any touts anywhere. The tickets tonight varied from £15 to £30 and I got one for only £20 in a great position in the front section near the back, which gave me an excellent view and where the sound was stunning. The show is described by the Barbican as 'An Evening of Music and Poetry with Fernando Saunders'. Joining Lou on stage are the said Fernando on bass ; Antony on vocals, who is at a tall lanky blonde of at least 6 feet in height and possibly more ; Jane Scarpantoni on cello, Mike Rathke on guitar, and Guang Yi Ren, a Tai Chi master who comes out to dance two or three times during the course of the evening. Across town in Borders in Oxford Street, ex-Velvet John Cale is also playing, starting at 6.30 p.m., and several people did both, but the Barbican is a pig to get to, so I arrive early and get to hear various bits of 'Sweet Jane' speaking out of the main hall as part of the soundcheck. The doors open at 7.30 p.m., and we are ushered into the beautiful hall, which is similar to the Royal Festival Hall, but much nicer. Lou joins us at 8.15 p.m. on a bare stage that features just the tools of his trade. He is a master of his craft, so he doesn't need fancy tricks and novelties to win us over. Opening up with a 10 minute version of 'Sweet Jane', Lou plays that ever so famous guitar line a few times over and then says "I just wanted to show you 3 simple chords, one man, one guitar. It's a beautiful thing. Anyone can do this." Over the next few minutes of the extended 'Sweet Jane' he introduces Jane, Antony who sings like an angel, and Fernando before saying "Hello London". We are off to a great start. 'Sweet Jane' is one of rock's greatest recordings and is delivered with class. Next up is 'Small Town' from "Songs for Drella' on which he asks us "Hey, students. Michael is playing a guitar, but that's a piano. Here, how's that, students ?" Lou just wants us to know everything played tonight is live and not on a tape, and Michael does indeed create piano sounds on the guitar. During these first two tracks Lou is very chatty, but from the third song he pretty much plays it straight. On 'Tell It to Your Heart' he is assisted by Antony. 'Men of Good Fortune' and 'How Does It Make You Feel' from 'Berlin' then follow. During the evening we are played just 4 of the songs from his new album 'The Raven', of which 'Vanishing Act' is the first, and during which a girl cries out. Strange girl ! 40 minutes into the set we get the magnificent 'Ecstasy' from his last album. This is his first tour since then, and I was told that on that last tour that he played three hours sets of material from that album and also lots of other weird choices. Tonight, however, this is just as perfect a set as it could possibly be. The next 30 minutes features songs from 'Street Hassle', 'Berlin' and 'The Blue Mask'. After this Fernando sings one of his songs, and then next comes heartbreak time. Lou delivers the Velvet Undergound's 'Venus in Furs', which is loosely based on a classic S&M story. "Shiny, shiny boots of leather, kiss the whip, a love not given lightly". It's about as grown up a song as you could get. Our very own Sweet Jane delivers a beautiful cello break which is just as stylish as John Cale's viola solo in the original 67 recording. 2 songs later and we get more Velvets. I have never heard a Lou Reed sang 'Sunday Morning', so I am bowled over with its majestic beauty. This is followed by a weird, chunky, rearranged 'All Tomorrow's Parties'. 2 Poe inspired pieces following, including an almost complete Poe version of the poem, 'The Raven', which has a bit of impro from Mr Reed. Cool ! The encore has Antony singing for Lou 'Candy Says' from the Velvet Undergounds' third album. Antony finishes it and says "'Candy Says' by Lou Reed' and the audience applauses with gratitude. One more song and then a perfect evening which lasted over two and a half hours comes to a close with Lou's only real hit 'Perfect Day'. Perfect day, perfect night. A master at his prime. Set List : Sweet Jane Small Town Tell It to Your Heart Men of Good Fortune How Does It Make You Feel ? Vanishing Act Ecstasy The Day that John Kennedy Died Street Hassle-Waltzing Matilda Part 1 The Bed Memorie Cherie (Sung by Fernando Saunders) Venus in Furs Dirty Boulevard Sunday Morning All Tomorrow's Parties Turn to Me The Raven Set the Twilight Gleaming Candy Says Rock Minuet Perfect Day



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Lou Reed - Barbican, London, 28/5/2003



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