Lou's Perfect Night

Lou Reed - Perfect Night In London Live
(Reprise Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

Father of alternative; punk predecessor; street poet laureate; political antagonist; and rock and roll icon, Lou Reed has contributed as much, if not more, to rock music then just about anyone.
Ever since his youth as the leader of the highly influential sixties band The Velvet Underground, Reed has grated, offended, shocked and entertained through his expressive, gritty lyricism that, more often than not, has focused on the wormholes in his hometown, the Big Apple.
Now 32 years after the Andy Warhol produced Velvet Underground album debuted, Reed has released an invigorating live recording from a 1997 London concert entitled Perfect Night In London Live that deliberately ignores his slew of hits and instead focuses on more obscure songs throughout the last three decades.
Instead of trying to live up to his classic 1974 Rock and Roll Animal, which today still stands as one of rock's greatest live albums, Reed replaces the excessive solos and jams on familiar hits with extremely efficient, clean run-throughs of long forgotten gems that sparkle with a renewed freshness.
Opening up with "I'll Be Your Mirror", from the Velvet's first album, Reed replaces the cold, European vocals of the late Nico with his own warm, honest vocals that bares a more human element to it. On the climatic, semi-autobiographical "Coney Island Baby" and "Kicks", a fictional song about killing just for the thrill of it, he sings in his dead-pan style about things that don't even enter most people's minds.
On "Perfect Day", a sleeper from his 1972 album Transformer which was ironically a huge hit just last year in England, Reed laments of simple pleasures before tackling the heavier subjects of drug abuse and child neglect on "The Kids", from his decadent, distant slice of life album, Berlin.
Previewing some of his most recent collaborative work with writer / director Robert Wilson from his pop opera Time Rocker, Reed performs "Talking Book" and the driving "Into The Divine". While he may not be making a major splash with his foray into writing for the theater, he at least shows enough courage to test new waters.
Outside of Reed's choice of songs there are two other factors that make Perfect Night a success. His bandmates guitarist Mike Rathke, bassist Fernando Saunders and drummer Tony "Thunder" Smith deliver a sinewy, direct musical approach that doesn't clutter up the mix. Even more important is Lou's newly discovered crystal clear sound from a device hooked up to his acoustic guitar called the "Feedbucker", which makes this live performance absolutely shine. "Most acoustic guitars you plug into an amp are going to sound horrible," Reed stated . "I mean really horrible. But the guy who built this guitar knew the correct pick-up to use and I as soon as I heard it I called him. I wanted to have this guitar for the London show. It was shockingly beautiful to hear it through this amp," he continued. "I'd never heard a sound like that."
With Lou in rare form, along with his tight band, crystalline guitar and a surprisingly eclectic song selection, this London show was indeed a perfect night.

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