Lou Reed Berlin
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Lou Reed co-founder of The Velvet Underground and the man behind such iconic rock songs as Sweet Jane and Walk on the Wild Side stars in one of the most satisfying concert films (Lee Marshall, Screen International) in decades. Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) captures this historic moment in time, as Reed performed his legendary 1973 album, Berlin, live for the first time. Rocking horns, soulful guitar and the angelic voices of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus bring Reed s devastatingly honest lyrics to full life in this exceptionally strong performance (John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter).
How do you adapt a record once described as "the most depressing album of all time" into a multi-media stage performance? Rather well, when it comes to Lou Reeds Berlin. The former Velvet Underground mainstay was already established as a solo artist, buoyed by the hit "Walk on the Wild Side," when he released the Berlin recording in 1973. That it was not a commercial success, to say the least, is unsurprising, given its relentlessly grim lyric content and music that, while often very appealing, is hardly the stuff that Top Ten dreams are made of. Still, it made sense when Reed revived the work some 35 years later for a single world tour and concert DVD. Working with film director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Reed brings a quiet power to his weary tale of hopeless junkies Caroline and Jim, whose lives, already bound for the gutter when the performance begins, completely bottom out little over an hour later (the 81-minute DVD includes a few encores, notably the Velvet Underground classic "Sweet Jane"). The songs, played by a standard rock band but with subtle touches of horns, strings, and choir (Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons adds vocals as well), are for the most part strikingly prosaic; Reed has never been much of a singer, and his words are anything but flowery, closer to prose than verse (many lines, like "All of her friends call her Alaska when she takes speed," are more spoken than sung). Schnabel does a superb job matching the downbeat mood, relying primarily on the use of low, filtered lighting and film (in which Caroline is portrayed by Emmanuelle Seigner). Not for everyone, certainly, but Berlin is a work to be admired. --Sam Graham
- An excerpt from Spectacle: Elvis Costello with Lou Reed & Julian Schnabel
- Berlin on tour
- Theatrical trailer
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This is MILES beyond anything the Stones, Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, etc have done in the last 20 years.
The only artists I know who come CLOSE to making their early 70's material relevant like this in new performance are Bruce Cockburn & Bowie's 90's work with Reeves Gabrels, neither of whom pulled it off like Reed does here.
Doesn't hurt to have a CRACK band anchored by Steve Hunter & Rob Wasserman (the entire band is tremendous).
What both makes it so special & oddly also at the same time might be my only criticism is this is NOT a greatest hits show. The only song on Berlin that qualifies for ME as a "greatest hit" is Lady Day (though the feel of the song has nothing in common with Billie Holiday stylistically, this song catches her essence better then any book I've ever read!). Berlin has several other strong songs (Sad Songs, Caroline Says, Men Of Good Fortune; there are NO bad songs on it), but again; it's not a hits show. We do get Sweet Jane as an Encore.
There's just something about seeing Reed feel these songs about being a 31 year old love lorn junkie as much at 64 as he did at 31 that melts me.
The sound quality is excellent with Lou's vocals being up front as they typically are on the album. I think most will find the highlight of this performance being the non-Berlin song, Candy Says, which Antony performs with Lou. It is quite moving and Lou acknowledges Antony after the song with a look of complete respect and appreciation.
While I do wish this would have been a standard video of his concert without the "film" aspects, it is a must buy for Lou Reed fans and all those that appreciated the Berlin album.