Lou Reed Says Pt. II

Lou Reed
Berlin: Live at St Ann’s Warehouse
Matador, 2008

Berlin was Lou Reed’s prodigal album.

It was a huge disappointment upon its release in 1973 and was maligned by critics and fans. Even RCA lost faith after hearing an early version of the tragic story of Jim and Caroline and docked it from a double to a single album. Reed avoided playing any of the songs off Berlin in concert for almost 34 years. In December 2006 he agreed to a recorded performance at Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse. By all accounts of the lucky few who were there, the theatrical performance, stage set, 30-piece band, choir and film accompanying the already dramatic work was a triumphant package: a miraculous reunion of content and maker. By the sounds of this album and the crowd’s reaction, it was a cathartic set of performances for Mr. Reed.

Berlin was intended as a descent into the dark and clouded depths of jealous love. It’s a story tainted by drug addiction, domestic abuse and depression. It comes as no surprise that Reed was reading Hubert Selby Jr. while going through a divorce and fueling himself with narcotics while recording the original album. There is a courage and defiance in Reed’s decision to revisit painful memory through his disastrous rock-opera, let alone to perform the act live and record it.

Listen for cameos by Sharon Jones and Antony (of the Johnsons).

Sophia Al-Maria
January 7, 2009

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