Nelson Brill

November 2003

“ … And then I discovered that I could plug straight into one of my amps and that was the sound I wanted to hear: amplified purity… The night of the show, when the band and I hit the stage, I was really pumped. I had an acoustic guitar with the sound of diamonds. A sound that no one had ever really heard before.”

This is how Lou Reed describes his foray into the sweet London night on July 3, 1997 when he takes the stage with his favorite power trio behind him to create a masterpiece of power, sound and vision. Lou’s vision is not a pretty one and those familiar with his prodigious output will recognize the powerful poetry about loss, corporate greed, racism and the modern “Dirty Boulevard” in all its most visceral aspects in this gritty collection of songs. What makes this recording an absolute audiophile gem is how the whole power grid of London seems to be channeled for this live session into Reed’s guitar strums and the sheer energy of his compatriots in the band. The sound that Lou generates from each strum of his acoustic guitar, (with his patented “Feedbucker” – a box that eliminates feedback”) is astonishing in its White Heat delivery and precision. The mates in the band are also in top form, with Mike Rathke a perfect guitar foil for Lou’s ruminations and both Tony “Thunder” Smith (drums) and Fernando Saunders (bass) pushing the limits of power and finesse.

The stage of the Royal Festival Hall is spread out before you with a wide accurate soundstage and an incredible, palatable feel for the sticky, humid air that hangs over every one of Lou and Mike Rathke’s chords and Smith’s fantastic drum kit rim shots. Lou stands off center left, and you should be able to follow him as he punctuates the air with his guitar thrusts and urges: “Tony, let me know you are there, big guy!” Watch out for “Viscious,” as it starts as a boiling burner with simply Lou and Rathke exchanging rifts, with Lou’s deep voice entering pristine and attacking. It works itself into a frenzy of power with Saunders’ bass providing the acceleration over Rathke’s bending string solo, which veers into the sublime. On “Busload of Faith,” Lou’s acoustic strums are encircled by Smith’s delicate rim shots that swirl in the night. No subject is taboo for Lou in this song and it represents anger, political message and power at its best, all anchored by the vehicle which is Rock and Roll. Both “Kicks” and “New Sensations” drive with a fury that is all punched-out power and a real test for your systems ability to harness the energy of this heady performance and keep it focused within the parameters of the depicted soundstage. In “Talking Book” you should be able to even discern Lou’s vocals reverberating in Smith’s nearby snare drum, giving them a touch of glare and shimmer. Finally, “Dirty Boulevard” closes the set with a powerful, relevant polemic on race, class and all those among us “dumped on the Boulevard.” “Have you ever had rage in your heart?” asked Lou to all of us-over searing guitar strums and dynamic bass lines. If you love some gain and controlled slam in your audio system and you love Rock and Roll at its most powerful, then there is nothing better than this gem of a recording on this particular sultry, summer night in London to define the true essence of Rock and Roll and sonics to match the punch.


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