Lou Reed takes a walk on the mild side


AT THE Shepherd's Bush Empire, Lou Reed comes on stage in black leather trousers and a tight black T-shirt. It has to be a good sign. The shirt may be a little too tight around the middle, but its presence hints that a rock'n'roll heart beats beneath it.

Around the time of his last album but one, Magic and Loss, Reed was spotted reciting his lyrics as if they were poetry, and admonishing his concert audiences for not being quiet. Tonight, he and his three-piece band kick off with "Sweet Jane", and, over the next two hours plus, they rock through most of the songs from his new album, Set the Twilight Reeling (Warner), and some purist-worrying versions of old favourites. Reed races over "Waiting for the Man" so fast that he obviously doesn't want to wait for long. On an "I Love You, Suzanne" that sounds more like "La Bamba", he adopts two voices that we never imagined he had: a falsetto, and a voice even lower and gruffer than his usual one. On "Walk on the Wild Side", the "coloured girls" are now plain "girls". Maybe in a few years time they'll be "women".

Whether it's the love of a good performance artist (Twilight is dedicated to his latest flame, Laurie Anderson), or whether he's trying to disprove the recent, damning biographies, the new Lou is in evidence, PC and settled. He's not taking hard drugs, he's taking it easy.

Consequently, the new songs are hardly momentous, though they have their moments: the gospel refrain of "Hang On to Your Emotions", the pretty chorus of "Trade In", the funky drum beat of "NYC Man", the heads-down rock of "Hooky Wooky". "Sex With Your Parents" is a deadpan jibe at Bob Dole and friends; "Egg Cream" is an uncomfortable but fun union of Stonesy music, Jonathan Richman-esque subject matter, and two lines of self-parodic, lurid Lou Reed: the milk-shake "made it easier to deal with knife fights / Kids pissing in the street".

Make no mistake, this is decent stuff, and he acquits himself honourably. But gone is the indecent, dishonourable Reed of legend, who would pretend to inject heroin on stage. There's nothing upsetting about this concert, except perhaps Lou himself, who is a dead ringer for a tortoise in a David Essex wig.

It's not that he doesn't enjoy music any more. He can jam for hours - and does - and nothing brings a smile to that Victor Meldrew face quicker than a chance to take a bow with his band, stroll off-stage, and return for an encore or seven. No, rock'n'roll amuses him, all right. It's a leisure activity. And when you're at leisure, you don't want to challenge yourself or others. So, while the Velvet Underground were just about the only band of the Sixties to demonstrate that the Beatles didn't cover absolutely all of the angles, Reed's invention tonight goes as far as strumming some of the chords on an acoustic guitar rather than an electric. He plays basic arrangements of basic songs, and if his voice is not monotone, it's tetratone at the outside.

It would perhaps be unfair to judge him on his past peaks, Himalayan as they are, except that a glance around at the audience confirms that the long-serving fans outnumber the teenage recruits 10 to none. Halfway through the show, from different corners of the venue, three fans shout out in quick succession. " 'Waves of Fear'! " is the first request; the second is: " 'Rock and Roll'! ". A third man then calls out: "Lou Reed!" I'm not sure if he's celebrating because his hero is present, or complaining because he's not.

Under the misapprehension that writing songs about cats and toy cars automatically makes you funny, the Presidents of the United States of America are a joke band without any punchlines, and a Seattle grunge band without any angst. So are they completely pointless? It's something to ponder as you get ecstatic and sweaty to "Lump" (Columbia), "Peaches" and the other songs from their two-million-selling eponymous album.

Live, you see, the Presidents win by a landslide, leaving the likes of Rocket From the Crypt and Green Day back in the primaries. Their hilarious, spontaneous show at the Leeds T&C on Thursday had the momentum and bounce of a bungee jump. Whether playing their own lo-fi, fun, funky punk, or covers of the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams" and the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star", the Presidents are more infectious than a herd of British cows. And there's the novelty value of the instruments played by Dave Dederer (guitarist) and Chris Ballew (singer/bassist/Lee Hurst look-alike) having a total of five strings between them. The goofball lyrics are still useless, though. It's something to ponder as you find yourself singing along with them. Kick out the Pearl Jams!

Their support band were Ocean Colour Scene, who are very, very good at what they do. That is, they're very, very good at what Cream, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Stones and the Who do. Whatever retro criticisms are levelled at Blur and Oasis seem laughable after you've heard OCS's "new" album, Moseley Shoals (MCA). Every note could have been recorded before the band were born.

Luckily, the group have some old-fashioned virtues to go with their old- fashioned everything else: a raw, passionate voice; strong, clear song- writing; dexterous blues-rock guitar; carefully produced records; and a live show with enough life and grit to revive even the weariest old riffs and haircuts. So far, their claims to fame have been the stints of their guitarist and bassist in Paul Weller's band, and their single, "The Riverboat Song" being the music you hear on Chris Evans's TFI Friday when a guest makes the long walk round the catwalk balcony. Now, their time has come. Better 30 years late than never.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?