The Iron Horse Tribute to Lou Reed, Jan 9, 2014.
"Oh ye of little faith ..." (Lou Reed, "Busload of Faith," New York).
How do we say good-bye to a person who influenced the world for generations in music, writing, performing, poetry, art and consciousness?
We don't say good-bye. (I've decided).
In getting ready to attend the Lou Reed tribute at the Iron Horse Music Hall, I was torn about going, because it would make Reed's passing all the more real. Yet, I did not want to miss the opportunity to be in the same room with fellow fans and bands who also love Lou Reed. The last time I saw Reed was 2008 at the Calvin Theatre . It was a satisfying performance, validating who Reed is, yet filled with surprises, humor, depth and poetics, that let us get to know him even better. The gathering of artists tonight, in their elegant presentation of Velvet Underground songs and Lou Reed classics, accomplished a similar feeling. A tribute to hold these songs and memories for the rest of our times here, allowed Lou Reed's influence to continue to be celebrated.
There is no such thing as a final thought on Lou Reed.
When the past makes you laugh and you can savor the magic
That let you survive your own war
You find that that fire is passion
And there's a door up ahead not a wall
~Lou Reed, "Magic And Loss," Magic and Loss.
The Velvet Underground founder and prolific solo artist always loomed large over audiences. Lou Reed died on October 27, 2013. His long struggle with liver cancer was known by fans, and we followed his journey through to - however you define what happens after death. He was a poet and photographer too.
It has been noted that one of Reed's goals as a writer was "to bring the sensitivities of the novel to rock music. ("Interview in Rolling Stone Magazine Nov/Dec 1987: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.)
Lou Reed lived being genuine in self expression of mindful observations. If tempted to compare yourself to him, then you weren't being yourself, and you were already off your mark. Living through your own mirror is the challenge. As much as Reed is associated and charged with inspiring punk, he was historically dismissive of it,
"I'm too literate to be into punk rock . . . The whole CBGB's, new Max's thing that everyone's into and what's going on in London—you don't seriously think I'm responsible for what's mostly rubbish?" (Lou Reed, From: Waiting For The Man – A Biography of Lou Reed. Jeremy Reed, 1994 Picador p.156.)
Steve Nelson, an early producer of The Velvet Underground, promoted the band in Western MA, circa 1969 and 1970. He started a museum of music icons for the New England region. The Music Museum of New England (MMONE) Mr. Nelson had some story gems to share with the crowd at the Iron Horse during the tribute and local archive pieces to register in our minds.
Photo Credits: The Music Museum of New England. Courtesy of Steve Nelson.
Fans got a kick out of the fact that this tribute took place the day after Bowie and Elvis' birthdays. It was also Jimmy Page's birthday (Jan 9th) and the anniversary of the first Velvet Underground concert in Western Mass. Multiple memorial concerts were going on for Lou this week. Places from NYC to the mid-west to California were celebrating his life in song. Bands ranging from U2 to Pearl Jam to the Killers sang in his honor. Rock stars, art enthusiasts, actors and world leaders tweeted about him. Fans miss him.
The Pioneer Valley crowd here was warm and relaxed. This was a very dedicated group for a Thursday night. A full house and lively bar kept the tables circulating as people moved around the venue. It was a refreshing atmosphere as people were so happy to share in this common passion. One mom brought her boy, who dragged his homework along as he picked at dinner, yet he still was bopping to the familiar tunes. (What a cool kid!) Couples hugged as music gems sparked to another time. One guy was reading an antique book, I wondered if it was a poetry book or something Lou inspired. Generations of folks who had a lifetime of memories to preserve were present, really present, listening with their eyes closed, nodding. You could almost hear the music in their heads. The whole thing was an awesome exchange between the fans and the bands. Yet, it was so subtle, the artists may not have even realized their power over this crowd. We were sad that Lou could not physically be here, but his spirit did show up - right on time.
Lou Reed's pop hits were jammed out by Rusty Belle, early in the evening. "Walk On The Wild Side" and "Sweet Jane" bellowed. Velvet Underground and Reed trivia references were made throughout the night by everyone. Bands gingerly acknowledged that no one can come close to Nico in talent, but they'd do their best. Soulful, poetic and gentle melodies came from all of these performers when necessary, while contrasted brain shredding, ear splitting guitar work reminded us that VU was an experimental band.
Mark Mulcahy and Friends' rendition of "Coney Island Baby" made me cry at the first sad breath of "I wanna play football for the coach." By the time the chorus joined in, there was relief and deliverance. The drummer was on fire during this set. Both sides of the archive record "Merry Go Round/Your Love" authorized by 'Lewis Reed' were played by the Lonesome Brothers. They also played a serious and slowed down version of "Busload of Faith" from the New York album, and it carried the same weight and comforting irony as it always did. The sentiments seemed to flow when "Perfect Day" was introduced by Winter Pills. I saw Elvis Costello recently and wondered if he reflected on his duet with Lou recently, as he did a great rendition of "Perfect Day" with Reed. A blast of a moment was watching Phillip Price's hair fly as he joyfully jammed out in "Beginning to See The Light". What floored me after this was The Fawns' riveting, I mean - simply mind blowing and intensely powerfully sharp arrow through - "Vicious". Reed often talks about mirrors and if there is a modern woman embracing Reed's intensity, Leso Bezo of The Fawns was it. Her straightforward take on "Pale Blue Eyes" brought Reed's matter of fact tone to the forefront, even though this song is rich with lyrical texture and complexity. I was hoping there would be a group (sing to my Lou) to wrap up the night on an inclusive note - and I was not disappointed, "Satellite of Love" was the perfect song to summarize the mood of the room. It was joyous and carefree, much better than watching things on TV.
(All photos were taken at the show by bluebirdreviews.com unless otherwise specified.)