Happy 20th: Lou Reed, PERFECT NIGHT: LIVE IN LONDON
20 years ago this month, Lou Reed closed out his stint on Sire Records with an acoustic live album documenting his performance at the 1997 Meltdown Festival in London.
Since its inception in 1993, the Meltdown Festival – or simply the Meltdown, which is how most people generally refer to it – has annually invited notable individuals to serve as the curator of the festival, which provides them with the opportunity to select what artists they’d like to have perform at the proceedings. Reed had a decided advance in 1997, given that his wife, Laurie Anderson, was serving as curator, but c’mon, it’s not like he was just riding in on her coattails.
(For the record, others performing that year included Ivor Cutler, DJ Scanner, Spaulding Gray, Gidon Kremer and his Tango Group, Arto Lindsay, Ken Nordine, Alan Read, and Heather Woodbury.)
Reed was accompanied for his performance by guitarist Mike Rathke, drummer Tony “Thunder” Smith, and bassist Fernando Saunders, who also chimed in on backing vocals. The structure of his set list was designed to confirm straight out of the gate that he wouldn’t have any trouble dipping into the Velvet Underground catalog, as he opened with “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” but it was most definitely a show which spotlighted his solo endeavors, with Reed offering up “Perfect Day,” “Vicious,” “Busload of Faith,” “Coney Island Baby,” “New Sensations,” and “Dirty Blvd.,” among others. In a pleasant surprise (particularly if you liked the album we’re about to cite), Reed also included “Talking Book” and “Into the Divine,” which were taken from Time Rocker, a play which found Reed collaborating with director/designer Robert Wilson and writer Darryl Pinckney.
Reed’s stripped-down performance on PERFECT NIGHT may not have floated the boat of every music critic, but those who enjoy Reed’s music but haven’t heard it before will likely enjoy it tremendously. Indeed, as the AV Club put it at the time, “Overall, Perfect Night: Live In London is an impressive collection—much better than the half-hearted concert walkthroughs most artists release to fulfill their contracts—as well as an essential document for Reed's fans.
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