From Richard Nusser’s Riffs column comes this review of Lou Reed’s first ever solo performance: “Saturday night Reed made his solo debut at Alice Tully Hall and reaffirmed the growing belief that he is a remarkable writer and one of the most gifted artists of our generation.”
The review in full from our February 1, 1973, issue after the jump.
The Village Voice
February 1, 1973
Dark and Light Rays
Lou Reed chose to concentrate on the dark side of our character when he began writing songs years ago, out there in Long Island, growing up absurd in the middle of the American Dream, drifting off to sleep with Alan Freed and the foreboding sounds of rock ‘n’ roll. After a few years in college, he founded the Velvet Underground. Andy Warhol then found him, and discovered the band had captured the demonic sound and fury, the din and dissonance of the dark side of urban life. It was a departure from all that had gone before in what’s come to be known as rock ‘n’ roll. It was certainly pop, but it was in the same rank as the music of Stravinsky, Stockhausen, and Cage. (John Cale, the English composer now with Warner Brothers, writing and producing, had more than a little to do with establishing the early Velvet’s sound, most people would agree. But Lou Reed had the beat and the depth of feeling that set it apart.)
Saturday night Reed made his solo debut at Alice Tully Hall and reaffirmed the growing belief that he is a remarkable writer and one of the most gifted artists of our generation. However, his preoccupation with drugs, death, depravity, and the quiet desperation of ordinary life, not to mention the trauma of being a man according to the dictates of contemporary society, have not attracted legions of fans who will run out and buy his records. His melodies and lyrics, strung together shards of life, glittering dark and sharp, have not given am radio programmers much to work with, either. But the fact that he has persisted in wrestling with those themes has earned him a devoutly loyal following, and his influence can be seen in much of what’s been happening in rock lately, from the Stones to Black Sabbath, from Alice Cooper to the New York Dolls. Like the horrors depicted in his music, Lou Reed has not gone away. In fact, his music is better than ever.
For one thing, he has assembled a group of musicians who are as good (I know it’s hard to believe) as the Velvets ever were, although they don’t sound the same. The new group not only manages to take Lou’s meaning and feeling and synthesize it into sound, they all add individual touches that enhance and make more brilliant the original thought. They are playing the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that stands up to anything being played in the world today, or for that matter, anything that has gone before. Bar none. (They are not the group that has played on the two Reed solo albums, unfortunately, although the group on Transformer, the current lp on RCA, is far superior to the groups on the first album, who were English studio musicians.) The new band is tribute to his genius.
Lou has never rushed, except in the worst way, to perform before live audiences. At Tully Hall he looked exhausted, but turned in two absolutely killer performances which had both audiences on their feet demanding encores. I hope he will take care of himself and continue revealing the reality, however dark it may be, of things as they are. Art may yet save us all, but it doesn’t seem necessary that our artists must also be martyrs. That may have been the style in the Piscean Age, but things are changing. Aren’t they?
The scanned archive pages of Nusser’s review on next page.
More:Lou Reed 1942 - 2013