In 1973 Lou Reed wrote a semi-autobiographical masterpiece, the concept album Berlin. It was originally written to be a traveling rock theater piece, but that was nixed by the bean counters at RCA. Bob Ezrin was brought in and he added the twin guitar genius of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner. The resulting tour (mixing “selections” from Berlin with Velvet Underground “classics”) was recorded for posterity and released as “Rock N Roll Animal” and the follow up “Lou Reed Live” (both of which are listed in my post on essential listening in the 70’s). The following short trailer mentions that Berlin was never performed live. This is “almost” correct. Lou did the lion’s share of the album on March 30th, 1979 for German fans at Eissporthalle, Berlin (in fact, I designed the art for the version posted here).
Thirty-three years later, Lou Reed re-teamed with producer Ezrin to stage live performances of the now-classic release at concert venues all across the globe. The album, which was savaged by critics upon release, was scored with orchestral arrangements and follows several characters as they experience jealousy, rage, and loss. While many turned their backs on the release back in 1973, the tide eventually turned and Berlin was even named by Rolling Stone as one of the top 500 albums ever released. Filmed during a five-night stint at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., this belated, live rendition of Berlin features an impressionistic backdrop filmed by Julian Schnabel‘s daughter Lola and haunting backup vocals courtesy of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
This DVD for me contains both Magic and Loss. It is great to finally see it as it was originally intended. Although Dick Wagner is absent (Loss), watching Lou trade guitar solos with Steve Hunter is pure ecstasy (Magic).
If you can watch this all the way through without your heart soaring and rending in turn, you aren’t human.