Lou Reed

At UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Wednesday, November

Reviewed by Brett Leigh Dicks

When ushers hand out earplugs, one knows it’s going to be a
special performance. But as Lou Reed ambled onstage, it became
clear that we were not only in for his trio’s musical onslaught,
but also the deafening response that met their arrival. After
opening with a barrage of wailing guitar and droning cello, a quick
stomp of a pedal led into a striving, bass-laden rendition of
“What’s Good” from the soundtrack to Wim Wenders’s equally
ambitious film Until the End of the World. Though it might have
been in reverse order, Lou Reed’s evening of Songs + Noise was well
on its way.

Just as “What’s Good” saw Reed’s two companions, Rob Wasserman
and Fernando Saunders, armed with bass guitars, “Who Am I?
(Tripitena’s Song)” — a tune drawn from a recent musical ode to
Edgar Allan Poe — had each filing away on electric cellos. As the
strings moaned and basses rumbled, the musical weight of the night
was considerable.

Given their recent work together on an Irish performance of Hal
Willner’s Leonard Cohen tribute, it came as no surprise to see
local chanteuse Julie Christensen accompany Reed in a sublime
rendition of Cohen’s “Joan of Arc.” With Reed’s laconic utterance
playing a foil to Christensen’s soaring cries, the song elicited a
rousing response from the audience and even a “Wow, a real singer”
from Reed.

Within his own material, we were afforded insight into Reed’s
incredible ability to convey the essence of life’s experiences. Be
it surrealism as seen through the eyes of Andy Warhol (“A Dream”)
or the ruthless reality of life on the streets (“Rock Minuet”),
Reed threw us wittingly into the mix. The musical experimentation
might have sent the show toward more of a jam session than an
orchestrated performance, but therein lay its bounty — there was
beauty and hostility; it made you sway and it made you squirm. And
it was all eked out through both songs and noise.


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