Reed's Berlin Called "Excruciatingly Literal"

ArtForum diarist Zach Baron covers Lou Reed's Berlin saying wearily,

"On an otherwise excruciatingly literal night—the album was “depressing,” therefore the audience would remain still and somber throughout; when the Brooklyn Youth Chorus chorused “No, no, no!” they would also shake their heads, no, no, no—the only break in the mood was Julian Schnabel’s set, a perplexing creation of Japanese screens in pale orange, yellow, and cream, set off by a fifteen-foot couch hanging vertically from the ceiling. Reed riffed on the otherwise inviolate solemnity, capping an extended guitar rave with a resigned shrug: “Oh, back into the land of depression now.”
The Rolling Stone's David Fricke felt more upbeat about the revisionist spectacle,
"On December 14th, thirty-three years after the album's release, Reed opened a sold-out four-night stand at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, performing the whole of Berlin live for the first time, with full orchestration and atmospheric stage direction by Julian Schnabel. The story still thrills as it repels: the way Reed, with a poet's ear and a reporter's eye and no intruding moral comment, renders both artificial ecstasies (booze, speed, reckless sex) and real-life horror (beatings, blood on the sheets).

But the most astonishing thing about hearing Berlin live was the greatest-hits glow of the songs. The arrangements, which sounded muted and crowded on the album's original, flimsy RCA pressing, bloomed in 3-D"
My favorite song on the album seems to have been hailed as a triumphant antidote to the wrist-splitting doom,"And when he got to "Caroline Says II," Reed offset the escalating violence and emotional collapse with a tenderness, in the music and his singing, that made it a love song in all but the bruises."

[ARTFORUM Diary, Rolling Stone]


Jenny Davidson said...

Hi--came here via your Underrated Writers recs--thanks for this useful post, I am having SUCH a pang that I did not make more of an effort to go to this! Really I probably could have got a ticket somehow if I had made more of an effort. Berlin is one of my particularly favorite albums ever (just listened to it--appropriately! not...--in the bath the other day, not a good sign about the mental state...); a student of mine who did go said it was almost unbearably moving, one of the best concerts he'd seen for a long time.

Related: I saw Antony do "Candy Says" as an encore at a show a couple years ago & it was quite amazing...

SisterRye said...

Hi Jenny,

Welcome. I've been enjoying your comments on the Underrated Writers post. I wish I had seen it too.

I'm curious about Julian's inclusion of images of his daughter Lola as part of the set. Schnabel is always so self-referential, the one thing I didn't enjoy about his Basquait film.