Sunday, October 27, 2013

RIP Lou Reed

Saw Lou Reed twice in my life: in 2000, at the Akasaka Blitz in Tokyo, touring the Hal Willner-produced album Ecstacy, and as part of Willner's tribute to Neil Young in Vancouver.

The Akasaka Blitz show - setlist linked above - was terrific, because Lou paid no attention to fan favourites and, for the whole main set, did expansive, jammy renditions of mostly recent songs, opening them up with a second guitarist whom I presume was Mike Rathke. He was totally engaged in making music, totally alive up there; when he did treat us to an older tune, like "Smalltown," it came as a welcome surprise, and clearly was a song picked because it had life for Lou, not to fulfill any extraneous demands. It was a fantastic experience, a privilege to watch. Then he did an encore of hits that was as brief and perfunctory as it was, apparently, gruelling for him, running through "Sweet Jane" and "Vicious" and "Perfect Day." He seemed so bored of these songs, like it was truly the "work" part of work to play them. (The setlist also lists "Dirty Blvd." but I honestly don't recall that happening; it was a long time ago, though). I had the chance to see him the second night, too, but it was such a perfect experience I didn't need to go - though sometimes I wish I did.

The second time I saw Lou,  as part of that Neil Young tribute - the one that Elvis Costello totally stole - it was as a total bonus. He came onstage to do one Neil Young song: "Helpless." A perfect song for Lou to sing. I think he might have popped onstage for the big ensemble at the end, getting calls of "Lou!" from the audience - but he didn't sing for that - he might not even have been there, I forget. "Helpless" was great, though.

Anyhow, my condolences to basically the whole fuckin' world of rock that Lou has departed. That's all I have to say at the moment, but 71 is far too young for a guy this creative to go.

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