Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lou Reed Live at Montreux

Lou Reed: Live At Montreux 2000
Eagle Rock Entertainment //123 Minutes // Not Rated

Reviewed by Steve Evans

Note from Cteve: Here’s another in my recurring series of reviews covering superb concert DVDs. This one’s from the Live at Montreux series released by the cool cats at Eagle Rock. They produce terrific product at a mouth-watering price.

Opening Shot
Full-tilt rock-n-roll from the bleakest guy in the business.

Dig Lou Reed, Ladies & Gentlemen
Nihilist rocker Lou Reed jams on 16 of his lesser-known songs during a mid-2000 show at the Montreux Jazz Festival. This is another entry in the well-produced Montreux series of concert DVDs drawn from the famous festival founded in 1967. Eagle Rock does a commendable job of packaging these important performances at a reasonable price. The disc before us contains many precious gems for longtime Lou Reed fans. Better still, he’s working with his best musicians since The Velvet Underground imploded in 1970 from creative differences and bad craziness.

“You can’t beat two guitars, bass, drums,” Reed once wrote on the liner notes to his 1989 album New York, extolling the virtues of a lean rock and roll sound. True to his word, he gigs with a superb backing band grounded by Fernando Saunders’s pulsing bass, Tony “Thunder” Smith pounding the drum kit, and Mike Rathke on guitar. Surprisingly, Reed plays lead on most of the tracks, proving once and for all that his musical talents run far deeper than his 40-year rep as a killer rhythm guitarist and lyricist.

The Montreux concert was part of a world tour in support of the Ecstasy album, which was released early in 2000. They were midway through their tour that year in July when they took the stage in Montreux. The experience shows. They have the sets down cold and their playing is awesomely precise, ripping through some ferocious rock with pinpoint control. Listen to the methodical buildup and release of blues tension on “Tatters” — a heartbreaking (and breathtaking) account of a doomed love affair. In the midst of the pandemonium that climaxes the song, Reed calmly lights a smoke, takes a quick drag, and stabs the cigarette between the strings wrapped around his tuning keys. The band settles into the jam as Reed chops on his Telecaster, his face intense, deadly serious, like he’s ready to debate the Devil over the price of admission into Hell.

There are lighter moments. Reed gives a nod to the Rolling Stones as his band opens the show with “Paranoia Key of E” — featuring a Keith Richards riff reminiscent of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” They segue immediately into the caustic commentary of “Turn to Me,” complete with “Honkytonk Women” backbeat as ironic counterpoint. Throughout the show, Reed lets the music speak for him. The only time he addresses the audience is for a band introduction before laying into “Dirty Blvd.,” the first song of the encore. The band wraps the show, fittingly, with “Perfect Day.”

What’s on the Disc, Steve?
I’ll tell ya. Videography is sharp and imaginative, making creative use of a minimalist stage. Sound is uniformly crisp. Three audio options provide welcome flexibility on various platforms, from Dolby 5.1 for home theater, to PCM stereo for a satisfying experience on a laptop computer with headphones.

There are no extras, but this is a solid concert package, affordably priced and expertly recorded.


Reed and his band deliver essential listening for avid fans. The man plays on this disc like he’s got something to prove. Lou, point taken.

Set List:
• Paranoia Key of E
• Turn to Me
• Modern Dance
• Ecstasy
• Smalltown
• Future Farmers of America
• Turning Time Around
• Romeo Had Juliette
• Riptide
• Rock Minuet
• Mystic Child
• Tatters
• Set the Twilight Reeling
• Dirty Blvd.
• Dime Store Mystery
• Perfect Day

Copyright © 2009 by Cinematic Cteve // dba Cinema Uprising. All rights reserved.

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