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LOU REED CELEBRATED AT NEW YORK'S LINCOLN CENTER
8/1/16

By Phil Gallo

When Anonhi, formerly Antony of Antony & the Johnsons, provided the first vocal moments of Lincoln Center’s “Lou Reed: Love Songs” program Saturday night, he set a largely solemn and introspective tone for the celebration. His delicate and graceful renditions of two of Reed’s best-known ballads, “Femme Fatale” and “Perfect Day,” were a sharp contrast to part 1 of the daylong event; the afternoon’s tribute concert was a jubilant and often aggressive rock & roll celebration that addressed the breadth and intensity of Reed’s work.

Throughout the day, whether through signature stylized chords, floating woodwind and string sounds or numerous references to New York City, the performers held Reed’s compositional intentions dear even as they allowed their own personalities to shine. It was the case with Lucinda Williams adding a drawl to “Pale Blue Eyes.” David Johansen (pictured), whose effusive rendition of “Rock and Roll Heart” was a highlight of the afternoon show,  gave a  Stones-y twist to the Velvet Underground’s “Oh Sweet Nuthin’”;  Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo—who led an impeccable band well versed in Reed’s nuances at the afternoon show— delivered a dense and majestic treatment of “Oceans” from Reed’s debut solo album while retaining the original’s hues.

The celebration, organized by Reed’s widow Laurie Anderson and Hal Willner, had no ties to any anniversaries but it did help increase awareness of Sony Legacy’s upcoming Reed 16-album box set The RCA & Arista Album Collection, due 10/07. Lincoln Center, Anderson said, was one of their favorite venues in the city and they visited often, making it a perfect, albeit rainy, setting for the tribute.  

“Everybody playing was friend of Lou’s,” Anderson said of the evening show after opening with an instrumental led by saxophonist John Zorn. “It’s a night of friendship.”

The friends included Victoria Williams, Emily Haines, John Cameron Mitchell, Garland Jeffreys and Joanaspolicewoman. The afternoon set included Bush Tetras, JG Thirlwell and Felice Rosser.

“Lou was one of the great New Yorkers of all time,” Lenny Kaye said before playing “I’m Set Free.” “He embodied all the great contradictions of this city.”

 The afternoon show was heavy on VU material: Yo La Tengo punishingly tore into “I Heard Her Call My Name”; Tammy Faye Starlite, who performed her Nico: Underground show at Lincoln Center 10 days earlier, delivered a disaffected and perturbed “Chelsea Girls”; and Jon Spencer explored Reed’s love of drones in “Venus in Furs.” D Generation’s Jesse Malin and Harper Simon hewed close to the original recordings of “Rock & Roll” and “Sweet Jane.” Show emcee Don Fleming and Willner had fun with the talk-sung VU obscurity “Temptation Inside Your Heart.”