Lou Reed, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Friday 08 July 2011
"We love you, Lou!" shouts a crazed audience member. "You know, by now, I love you too," croaks The Velvet Underground legend, who is notoriously uncompromising when it comes to testing what fans are willing to accept as entertainment. Having endured the unlistenable electronic clamour of Metal Machine Music and the crashing downer of Berlin, none of the audience are expecting a full-blown radio-friendly hits showdown tonight.
Nonetheless, the shows gets off to an unexpectedly tame start. Reed opens with the placid psychedelic doo-wop pop of "Who Loves the Sun", followed by "Senselessly Cruel", a mid-tempo shuffle with lightweight lyrics like, "When I was a poor young boy at school/Girls like you always played me for a fool".
Proceedings get a little edgier with "Ecstasy", whose elegant Eastern feel sounds curiously contemporary. Unfortunately, it goes on for what feels like hours. But it's as if playing the track is a therapeutic exercise for Reed: after this cathartic release he appears to start enjoying himself.
Next we're treated to "Venus In Furs", the incessant droning guitars creating a perfect otherworldly ambience for the succeeding "Sunday Morning". Reed's penchant for monotone delivery perfectly suits The Velvet Underground's lush lullaby, which hypnotises a smiling, swaying audience.
More highs follow with "Femme Fatale" and "Waves of Fear", during which Reed gestures to an audience member to come to the front, encouraging hordes of fans to run like little girls, arms flailing, to fill the aisles for the rest of the evening. By the end, they're singing and dancing joyously to an unquesionably crowd-pleasing "Sweet Jane".
After a quick goodbye, the crowd plead for more, still deliriously excitable following their invite out of their seats. But what is on offer is "The Bells", an esoteric track that's physically impossible to dance to, let alone sing along to. Slow and jarring, it consists of gradually accumulating eerie crescendos with vocals that only become audible halfway through. What might have been an intriguing alternative to the opening number instead just feels tediously indulgent as a finale.
So a generous smattering of Velvet Underground classics suggests, as Reed says, that he does love us. But an unmercifully anti-social encore, now that's just senselessly cruel.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 3 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'