LOU REED, with VICTORIA WILLIAMS, the Hummingbird Centre, June 16. Tickets: $33.89-$53.89. Attendance: 3,000. Rating: NNN
A s if the unusual pairing of delicate desert folk flower Victoria Williams and cynical New York gutter poet Lou Reed weren't odd enough, the show strangely began 15 minutes before the door time of 8 pm printed on the tickets.
So when Williams casually ambled onto the stage with her front-porch pickers -- who looked like they'd arrived in a pickup truck -- there were but 83 puzzled patrons on the main floor of the vast Hummingbird Centre to greet them.
The hundreds of empty seats didn't seem to unnerve Williams. On the contrary, she looked delighted by the possibility of getting to know the entire audience on a first-name basis.
By 8 pm, Williams was deep into her set, scatting along to the samba-swinging title track of her forthcoming album, Water To Drink. Along with new backyard homilies like Gladys And Lucy, Little Bird and Junk, the sweetly cordial Williams gleefully took up the challenge of performing shouted requests for songs the rest of the band didn't know.
There were some false starts, rough changes and irregular resolutions, but for all the roughness, Williams's freewheeling opening segment proved much more entertaining than Reed's coldly detached track-by-track regurgitation of his Ecstasy album.
He played the entire show as if his feet were frozen in a block of ice. Even the solos weren't spontaneous but, rather, repetitions of simple riffs designed to impress those who'd come -- mysteriously -- to bellow "L-o-o-o-o-o-u" after each tune. At least that's what Reed told himself they were hollering.