Lou Reed: Perfect Night: Live In London

Lou Reed: Perfect Night: Live In London

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Lou Reed

Album: Perfect Night: Live In London
Label: Reprise

Lou Reed's live albums are bound to be a crapshoot: Like Bob Dylan, Reed has a habit of radically reworking his material in concert—often songs revered in their original form—and the results can be alternately exciting and embarrassing. For example, though it did turn the song into a hit, does anyone prefer the sloppy, balls-out rendition of "Sweet Jane" heard on 1974's Rock 'n' Roll Animal? Although it doesn't quite live up to its name, Perfect Night steers clear of such problems. Playing with a small band, Reed delivers a stripped-down performance that most often brings out the best in his material. Beginning with "I'll Be Your Mirror," the first part of this 15-song set relies heavily on Reed's early work, most of which sounds terrific in its new setting. Shortened and freed of its melodramatic sound effects, "The Kids" is a better song, and "New Sensations" works better here than it did in its overproduced, '80s form. Of course, at least a couple of song choices are perverse: No one needed the original version of "Original Wrapper," Reed's belabored, half-serious 1986 stab at hip hop, much less a new one. And while most of the material from 1996's Set The Twilight Reeling sounds strong, "Sex With Your Parents" is still strident and self-righteous enough to embarrass even those who put "Hatred Is Not A Family Value" stickers on their cars. Overall, however, Perfect Night: Live In London is an impressive collection—much better than the half-hearted concert walkthroughs most artists release to fulfill their contracts—as well as an essential document for Reed's fans.