Friday 27 June 2008

Ich Bein Ein Berliner

Went to see Lou Reed perform Berlin the other night. I must admit, I was half-dreading it. I haven't listened to the record in a long while, and the idea of hearing Reed mono-mutter his way through an entire album of drugs, bad sex, violence and suicide didn't really fire me up on a balmy June night.

The reality, however, was superb. Great band, fantastic choir of angelic kids, and - although Lou could make a little more effort on the singing front, because he occasionally revealed that he can still hold a note - the songs were even more bleakly beautiful than I remember, particularly the sequence from Caroline Says onward. I left singing 'They're taking her children away' softly to myself, alternating with 'I'm gonna stop wasting my time / Somebody else would have broken both of her arms.' Lovely.

As a piece of work Berlin doesn't resonate particularly on a universal level - it's a very specific, stylised take on a certain kind of life and death in New York - but it was still deeply moving in parts. So much so that the two 'classic' Reed songs he performed as an encore - Satellite of Love and Rock and Roll - felt a little slack by comparison.

The night also reminded me that one of my first girlfriends bought me Berlin on vinyl for my 16th birthday. In retrospect, I think she may have been trying to tell me something.....

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