Man, for someone who's almost old enough to get a senior's discount at the movies, Lou Reed is looking mighty fine. This bare-bones set recorded during a performance at last summer's Benicassim Festival in Spain finds the former junkie in fighting form, all buff and trim and busting out classics from the Velvets' vault. Backed by a solid band that includes long-time guitarist Mike Rathke and bassist Fernando Saunders (a sometime member of Heart!), both of whom served as producers on this nicely reined-in concert film, Reed efficiently makes his way through 11 well-selected tracks with an emphasis on his pre-1980 material, though he throws in some decent later stuff like Romeo Had Juliet, from 89's New York. The best news? The Raven didn't make the cut.
Reed's a total pro onstage, which makes for a nice-sounding performance if not a hugely entertaining one. He eschews stage banter for a handful of noisy solos and breaks character once, interjecting kissy-kissy sounds in place of the "kiss" lyric on Modern Dance. Sadly, the tai chi expert who gussied up Reed's Toronto performance is nowhere in sight; instead you're left to amuse yourself watching cellist-to-the-stars Jane Scarpantoni look like a woman possessed as she frantically skronks out harmonics on her giant cello, and listening to Saunders squeak harmonies in a peculiar falsetto that sounds like his balls are caught in a vise. Plus, the film's aesthetic is pretty minimalist, basically a step up from a Live At The Rehearsal Hall episode. Still, Reed's written some amazing songs, and when he finally launched into the familiar intro of show-closer Walk On The Wild Side, I got goosebumps. Fans will love this; others will probably be bored out of their skulls.