Have I mentioned Lou Reed's arms?

oh those arms and sinews

Strange, it never occurred to me that anyone else in the audience might be fixated on these two parts of his anatomy but it turns out this predilection is shared by H, whose idea it was to go to see him perform his concept album Berlin in its entirety. And in fact, judging from the larger picture from which the above was cropped, performers as well as audience members shared the interest.


This was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to, possibly the best (although to be honest I go to so few there isn’t much competition, but don’t let that get in the way of how fabulous this was).

Quite apart from the stunning quality of the musicianship it was the physicality of the thing that so enraptured… Lou Reed moving like an ancient and arthritic monkey yet taut as catgut stretched across a violin bridge, face contorted in intense concentration; the swaying of the angelically-gauze-robed New London Children’s Choir; Katie Krykant in her stunning scarlet dress seated quietly while silent then stretched tight, pulling the music out on threads between her hands.

backing singer

The guitarist, Steve Hunter, played on the original album and has been described as “one of the best guitarists on the planet”. I’m not going to argue with that. An extraordinary presence, tall, inexplicably wearing what looked like a black wooly hat, he sometimes bounded around, at others reclined on a stool with one long leg extended out across the stage.

The intensity and rapport between all the musicians on stage (about 30 including the brass and string section from the London Metropolitan Orchestra was incredible. That’s drummer Tony “Thunder” Smith having some kind of out of body epiphany during Satellite of Love (played as one of three encores).

satellite of love

The only cavils I have are minor. The set by Julian Schnabel didn’t quite work for me. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t really very inspiring. And the presence of what appeared to be an old green sofa hanging against the backdrop was annoying. The back-projected film by Schnabel’s daughter Lola Schnabel featuring Emmanuelle Seigner as the album’s central character, Caroline, was a mimsy spun-sugar confection completely emotionally disengaged from the intensity of the music and narrative it was supposed to complement.

And what a narrative. Emotionally and physically abusive relationships, infidelity, jealousy, a mother having her children taken away, suicide by the blade. Quite apart from my own general history in the 36 hours before the concert I learnt of the suicide of a former colleague and discovered a friend had grown up in a series of foster homes after being removed from their mother’s care because of her repeated suicide attempts. Yes, life is indeed a bitch. However at the end of the performance I was left feeling profoundly uplifted. I’m not sure why this should be so, but guess that it’s partly sheer gratitude for what hasn’t happened and partly an ability now to look at pain without the fear that the mere act of looking will allow it to infect, overcome and destroy.

As for the pictures, I am so happy with them! I’ve long admired Caroline‘s spectacular concert photography but grabbed the long lens pretty much as an afterthought just before leaving the house. I think that given how far away from the stage we were it handled the challenge really well. I shoved the ISO up to 800, cleaned up the Olympus trademark noise afterwards; the tiny size and weight of the lens and camera means less shake, and, perhaps the most significant factor, Mr Reed kept quite still most of the time 🙂

I still really really want the new E-510 though. Can you imagine what my tiny light lens could produce on a body with built-in image stabilisation? and with (at last) an effort by Olympus to tackle the appallingly bad noise their cameras usually have at high speeds? It’s only a few millimeters larger and 85g heavier the the E-400… with the weak dollar I could get it for £400 when I go to NY in September… that’s £150 less than over here… nonononononono… no spending money. Tell me to stop. STOP! DON’T DO IT! NOOOOOOOOO!!


PS Did you know Lou Reed meditates? He studies with Mingyur Rinpoche who’s a teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu lineage. Maybe it’s Rinpoche who’s taught Reed to smile. Yes, there is visual evidence. Lou Reed can smile. Well, after a fashion. Looks like he still needs practice. And he’s released an album, Hudson River Wind Meditations. User reviews are positive. The one music critic I read was, um, savage.

6 Replies to “Have I mentioned Lou Reed's arms?”

  1. Great shots. (And yes, great arms. The face, however… rubbery as ever.) Sounds like it was a fabulous concert. Thanks for the recap and photos!

  2. Stunning photos. Are you sure you should not be considering this as a possible career direction? Someone who could both interview the artists and photograph them might find a market, surely? I’m not sure really how much I like Lou Reed (music or arms), though I did know about the meditation.

  3. Fantastic pictures! I went to see Lou Reed as well, here in Amsterdam, but didn’t bring the camera (they search at the door, I didn’t want the hassle). Also… row 27.

  4. Thank you.. I was sooo pleased with them (in case that wasn’t already apparent).

    Jean… it would be great, wouldn’t it, to be paid to go to take pictures of and talk to fascinating and talented people. If you ever see such a job opening let me know 🙂

    Caroline… you were *searched*? that’s terrible! I’m going to see Prince in September and would probably need a telescopic sight and a tripod we’re so far away. On the other hand… if I had the new Olympus body……… (aaaaaaaaaaaarghghghghg)

  5. You lucky lucky thing for seeing this. I wasn’t able to attend. Berlin is one of my favourite albums though I discovered it very late. It’s hard to imagine that the man who wrote such dark lyrics would now have such a good life in NYC with Laurie Anderson – imagine what a terrific blog he’d write if he had one! And I had no idea he does meditation practice – thanks for sharing that wonderful nugget of information.

  6. He’s *with* Laurie Anderson??? as in *with* her? OMG! How could I not know that? Two heroes just made for each other. I mean I’ve seen pictures of them together etc but… wow!

    Yup, I too came late to Berlin, being a Velvet Underground fan first and foremost. Isn’t it great that he didn’t die, didn’t top himself and still makes fabulous music!

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