For Lou Reed, the crowd was pushy, one that had reached the precipice of its frustration after waiting forty-five minutes for their Bowery anti-hero. When he finally arrived, Reed was in fine spirits as he surveyed the crowd and said, "Look at you, you're all drunk," and then launched into the seminal classic "Sweet Jane" to start the two-hour set.
For the casual Lou Reed fan, it was a bit of bait and switch. The show promoted itself to feature material from his latest effort, The Raven and select Velvet Underground material. However, on the first night of two warm-up shows at New York's Bowery Ballroom in preparation for his world tour, the crowd saw only a smattering from both.
Instead, Reed delivered various samplings from much of his later solo catalog ranging from 2000's Ecstasy but also harkening back to the 1973 classic Berlin, in which he stunned the packed Bowery with "Men of Good Fortune" and "How do You Think It Feels." However, if you were looking for classic Transformer cuts, you were looking in the wrong place, as there seemed to be conscious effort to avoid such material. Following the one-two punch from Berlin, Reed prepared the crowd for the first of two cuts of Poe derivatives with "Vanishing Act," which made this reviewer optimistic about what was being done with Poe's material, but with ëThe Raven" toward the end of the set, cynicism was difficult to fight off, especially with the songs he played leading up to it: "Venus in Furs," "Dirty Boulevard," "Sunday Morning," and "All Tomorrow's Parties." There's the price of admission for this musical Bowery lesson right there. The first three were played in the spirit in which they were originally intended, but with "All Tomorrow's Parties," Reed and his band utilized an aggressive drumbeat with Arabic sounding backing vocals, which left the purists with sour expressions.
The biggest disappointment of the evening was when Reed conceded his vocal duties to the other members of the band. The intended highlight of the encore was to be "Candy Says" from 1969's self-titled Velvets record, but Lou decided to have his backup singer, Anthony from Anthony and the Johnsons, do the vocal honors instead of himself, leaving this reviewer disappointed. The set also featured Reed's bassist, Fernando, singing one of his songs, and even though Lou was visibly entertained, you couldn't say the same for the capacity audience.
With nothing left to prove after such an illustrious career, Reed joked and smiled sparring with the crowd to everyone's amusement without ever letting them forget the desolate characters that have shaped the life of one of New York's most beloved poets.
Source: Paul Caruso, Guest Reviewer