The last time I went to the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, I was greeted by a very lacklustre effort from Sinead O’Connor. Although I had higher hopes for Lou Reed, who brought his Berlin tour to the venue last night, I left disappointed by an average performance and bewildered by the audience’s hysterical reaction.
My main gripe was Reed’s tendency to sing the songs according to whatever lyrical phrasing that pleases him. Okay, they’re his songs and he can do what he likes with them, but I’d have preferred them to sound more like they do on the record. Surely that’s the point of presenting an album in its totality, live on stage. Reed’s delivery is generally conversational but I thought his ambling, talking style ruined The Kids and Caroline Says II.
The Berlin album runs for just under fifty minutes. Reed and his band compensated for this by ensuring the closing bars of nearly every song repeated over and over, while Reed and his guitarist engaged in over-bloated guitar jamming.
The mood improved towards the close of the album. The Bed and Sad Song translated beautifully and Reed sang in time to the music, although the refrain of the latter song seemed to go on for an age.
The encore consisted of near-unrecognisable versions of Rock and Roll and Satellite of Love. Reed’s boredom must have been complete by this point, as he didn’t even bother singing most of the words, leaving these duties to his bass player, backing singer and child-choir. Unfortunately, the final song The Power of the Heart was marred by Reed’s guitar sounding distinctly out of tune with the rest of the band, although Reed seemed aware of this, judging by his perplexed scrutiny of said guitar as he continued to play.
It seems standing ovations are commonplace in the Waterfront Hall. Like O’Connor last month, Reed’s audience was quickly on its feet and clapping like mad. Maybe they were on strong drugs, or something. The people in the row in front of me were waving their arms and whooping. I didn’t quite get it, although the sight of middle aged men dancing in the aisle and supplicating themselves, hands outstretched to their hero was somewhat bemusing.
Maybe I was just spoilt by an excellent Leonard Cohen performance in Dublin the week before.