Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse
Upon the 1973 release of Berlin, a Rolling Stone critic deemed the record "patently offensive." Thirty years later, Lou Reed's concept album about speed freaks on a downward spiral of infidelity, spousal abuse, parental neglect and death ranked 344 on this magazine's 500 all-time-greatest-albums list. Reed has always fed upon this kind of irony, and in 2006 he staged a concert adaptation of his rock musical in Brooklyn. (Painter-filmmaker Julian Schnabel shot the performances.) Where Reed once ham-acted the part of cuckolded savage Jim on the original, he sings here with both detachment and fatherly compassion. While ballads such as "The Bed" grow eerily placid, the Kurt Weill-like class commentary of "Men of Good Fortune" gains severity: Guitarist Steve Hunter embodies privilege with flashy heroics, and Reed represents unskilled labor via blunt six-string bursts. An encore duet with Antony on the Velvet Underground's "Candy Says" adds a sweet aftertaste to Berlin's bitterness. But the explicit gay sex and slaughter of 2000's "Rock Minuet" emphasize that Reed hasn't exactly gone soft.