Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lou Reed: Still Taking No Prisoners

Silly me. About halfway through Lou Reed's set last night at the Electric Factory, and I thought he had mellowed. There he was, introducing himself with a lighthearted "Hello Cleveland," introducing a couple of his songs as being from the movie Juno (only true for one of them), and jokingly dismissing a request for "Venus in Furs" by saying "That's not one of my songs!" and asking the band if he had in fact written it. Despite the signs posted around the venue informing us of the artist's request that we keep our voices down during the performance, there was scarcely a hint of the smug asshole phase of Reed's career.

When Reed brought down the volume a little, though, suddenly I was surrounded by the low roar of hundreds of conversations. It was certainly annoying, and I wasn't the only one who thought so. In the middle of "Talking Book," with Laurie Anderson joining the band onstage, Reed stopped the music and asked, "Would you like me to finish the song, or would you like keep talking?" The audience roared with approval.

I'm always baffled when people spend good money on tickets to rock shows and then proceed to treat the performer as background music for their conversations. The Electric Factory is a music venue; it's not some local bar where you weren't expecting a band to be. Lou Reed wasn't the opening act or anything. And c'mon . . . it's Lou Reed! Are you just there to hear the hits?

As for the performance as a whole, I enjoyed it, but feel too ignorant to discuss it further (I know Reed mostly from the Velvet Underground, and a few of his better-known solo songs). I was quite amused, though, that with his large glasses, sleeveless shirt, and prominent belly, he looked less like the Rock n Roll Animal of his use and more like a suburban dad who had spent the day working on his lawn.

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