This DVD documents the “Legendary Hearts” tour Lou Reed did in 1983, the live LP with the incredibly imaginative title “Live in Italy” came out of the same tour. It was at the tail end of the punk/new wave boom and Lou, being the godfather of punk/new wave, was on the road with a band that reflected the era. His backing musicians included Richard Hell’s sideman Robert Quine on guitar, Fred Maher of Material and other No Wave “punk jazz” bands, and Fernando Saunders, who worked on and off with Reed throughout until around 2008.
Reed was by this time a shell of his former subversive Velvet Underground and early solo self, and the band is a slightly more standard rock band. However, the interplay between Quine and Reed recalls Quine’s Voidoids work (he, along with Television’s Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine, are the only punks who could get away with guitar solos) and of course Reed and Sterling Morrison play off each other in spectacular fashion, which is probably best heard on the Live Matrix Tapes boxset.
Reed delivers a set that is a mixture of his Velvet Underground standards, such as “Sweet Jane,” “I’m Waiting for the Man,” “Rock & Roll,” “White Light/White Heat” and solo hits like “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Satellite of Love.” “Walk on the Wild Side” recently was embroiled in an absolutely insane controversy when it was played at the University of Guelph student union. It was considered “transphobic” by some “activist” students, when it’s the complete opposite—Reed was dating a transgender woman at the time of the song, mysteriously only known as Rachel.
The rest of the songs are mostly from his then most-recent albums Legendary Hearts and excellent The Blue Mask, which were recorded more or less by the band that went on tour. One of The Blue Mask‘s highlights is “Women,” which Lou wrote as a response to questions about his sexuality. One of the song’s most memorable verses is: “I used to look at women in the magazines, I know that it was sexist, but I was on the sly, I couldn’t keep my hands off women, And I won’t till I die.” It’s a shame the camptastic music video for “Women” isn’t on the DVD, so watch it below.
It’s a great set by one of rock n’ roll’s greatest poets and recorded when Reed still actually cared and put in an effort. He still attempted to “sing” at this point, not the sort of lazy speak/singing he did later on. I did see Lou Reed once at the Morrissey-curated Hop Farm Festival, and even though he was pretty dreadful and had saxophone drenching every song, glimmers of his genius still showed through. Would rather have seen these performances though, and you will enjoy them too.