Lou Reed was in Asheville NC last night,and I was there to see him. A jaunty little 220 mile ride up I-85 and I was there. (The bitch was the drive back at midnight,UGH). What an astounding little town,not unlike a little Berkeley: protesters, hippies everywhere, weird little shops selling organic tools and macrobiotic nail clippers. A perfect place for the king of cool to land.
And there’s that: He played at The Orange Peel: a venue named by Rolling Stone this month (in their Best of Rock 2007) as the “best rock venue in the US”. An open, standing room only theatre that allows you to get right up at the edge of the stage, just a few feet away from the performers. I came early and was stage-right/center, no more than 10 feet from Lou’s mike stand. The sound levels were perfect (they must have theorized that there would be a slightly older crowd,and they were right). It was a brilliant night of art-house cool music with a slightly sinister allure.
Reed was cool before we knew what it was, with his Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, Nico days in 60’s lower Manhattan. VU broke up around 1970, though he never stopped playing and evolving thru more than two dozen albums, not all of them gems.
His musical and romantic collaboration with Laurie Anderson (another avant-garde performance artist) has positively affected his music over the last 15 years they have been together (they married just this year), mellowing it and giving it a softer edge, yet still very Lou.
He showed that side last nite in his playlist: a mix of some of his classics (Ecstasy, I Believe in Love, Dirty Blvd) mixed with some newer pieces like Call on Me, A Thousand Departed Friends (his screed against AIDS), Guardian Angel, I Wanna Know, and Tell it To Your Heart. His accompanying band included legendary guitarists Mike Rathke and an old guy named Dan ‘something”. I know that Dan is legendary not only because Lou introduced him that way, but by the way the guy played. Incredible: A blend of Jimmy Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, with a little John Butler mastery in evidence.
For an old guy (65 and addled a bit by his decade of heroin addiction in the 60’s) he still has a clear voice and can still make the guitar sing their unique LOU sounds.
Perfect Day, an interesting ballad from his 1972 Transformer album was their encore. A fitting way to end what I felt was MY PERFECT DAY with Lou Reed.