Lou Reed has been part of my cultural landscape since the early 70’s when he released the Bowie/Ronson-produced Transformer in 1972, and I then became aware of the Warhol-curated first Velvet Underground LP from 1967. I was 16, and aspired to art school, a rock lifestyle and all manner of bohemian excess. While the reality of my life turned out to be somewhat more prosaic than these fantasies, Lou was always there showing how to stay wild.
I first saw Lou Reed play in the Sally Can’t Dance tour of 1974, at the Festival Theatre in Adelaide. I loved the ‘glam’ of Transformer and was a little shocked by his blonde ‘junkie fag’ persona. I was 18, and wore a vintage wedding dress. The support act was AC/DC – then unknown outside of Sydney pubs – is it my imagination that they wore satin, as befitting that glam era?
The next time I saw Lou was in 1977, the Rock and Roll Heart tour, also in Adelaide – with dark curly hair and much beefier, he must have cut down on the speed. I had taken up photography at art school and the photos above are from a blurry, spotty roll of Tri-X that I shot on my student Pentax. I remember Berlin as one of my favourite albums from these art school years, and still have my old scratched vinyl.
It was many years later that I caught up with Lou during his Ecstasy tour of 2000, in the baroque splendour of the State Theatre. By then I had moved to Sydney, travelled in Europe, and had two teenage sons. The band was amazing, including electric violin (his wife-to-be Laurie Anderson had played on the album), and it was a sublime concert, with Rock Minuet a transcendent highlight.
The final concert I saw was the great reprise of his album Berlin, that was performed at the State Theatre in early 2007, with a band comprising original personnel from the band (Steve Hunter) and some new favourites (Sharon Jones! Antony!), as well as a Julian Schnabel set design.
On Lou’s last visit to Australia in 2010, he and Laurie curated the Vivid Festival at the Sydney Opera House. Would have loved to see him perform again, but couldn’t quite take to a live revival of Metal Machine Music, so we saw Laurie Anderson in concert instead, a sweet and perceptive story-teller, so glad I did.