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    Lou Reed - A Night WIth
    Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 59 mins . G . PAL


    Lou Reed is the kind of artist whose music is hard to categorise, in fact it is something of a challenge just to categorise Lou Reed as a performer at all. At various times in his career he could be referred to as a musician, a poet, a storyteller, and even an innovator. Back in the '60s he was a member of the Velvet Underground, whose music seemed to appeal to large audience of beatniks and those that dwelled in underground pubs and clubs. One of his greatest admirers was New York artist Andy Warhol (who was in the audience the night this was filmed), and that should tell you a little bit about the kind of performer Lou Reed was, and still is.

    After the Velvet Underground, Reed embarked on a solo career releasing a stream of albums, from the commercially successful to the critically and commercially panned. There seems to be no consistency to his work, though every album had those that hailed it and those that loathed it. For mine, his most consistent and most eloquent work is 1989's New York, which included the hit Dirty Boulevard. This album brilliantly illustrates Reed's ability to tell a story in each song, and mostly those stories are not pretty. That whole album is a snapshot about his beloved New York, and although no songs from it are included in A Night With Lou Reed, as it was recorded in 1983, it is an easy introduction and one of my favourite albums.

    A Night With Lou Reed was filmed at the Bottom Line in Greenwich Village in 1983. By Reed's own admission it was a great show, although some of it has been edited out as there is the most obvious editing blunder between the first and second songs. It is proof that his songwriting was just as strong, just as diverse, and his playing was just as self-indulgent back then as it is now. His lyrics are generally quite dark, the characters he creates in song are usually somewhat downcast, and the mood of the song is often enhanced by his unique performance.

    Lou Reed always appears to give off an air of annoyance and arrogance, but little of that is on display this night - playing in New York must appeal to him. The recorded performance lasts just under an hour, and includes tiny segments of before and after show footage. If you are a fan then you'll love this, even though the video and audio quality is not what we are used to in 2002. If you are a casual fan, then there are enough familiar tunes to sustain interest, but if you have never been interested in the man, then this disc is unlikely to change your mind.


    Sweet Jane
    I'm Waiting For the Man
    Martial Law
    Don't Talk to Me About Work
    Waves of Fear
    Walk on the Wild Side
    Turn Out the Lights
    New Age
    Kill Your Sons
    Satellite of Love
    White Light/White Heat


    Hmm! This recording is almost twenty years old, and it shows every year of it. Not surprisingly, A Night With Lou Reed is presented in a full frame aspect ratio, and therefore it's not 16x9 enhanced. The image is very soft, and detail is adequate at best, with close-up shots faring a lot better. Colouring is generally OK, though there are times when they appear to be a little washed out, and what is it with blue light at this club? There is a heavy bias towards blue and red lighting, and this is when problems such as colour bleeding are compounded. There is also some evidence of chroma noise.

    Black levels are hard to comment on as there really aren't any, and shadow detail is not so great when Reed moves out of the spotlight. Speaking of lighting, this is a fairly intimate show, and there are no flashy moments such as fireworks, explosions or giant screens, so colouring and shadow detail are not essential requirements. There is some evidence of aliasing, but generally the image is quite free of other artefacts. There is no layer change.

    As this is a disc that automatically plays back the audio immediately, giving a listening only option, you might expect a great audio transfer, but this isn't really the case. The only option is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, and the first impression is that it sounds a little muddy. The bass levels are not particularly deep, though they are adequate. Top end sounds, such as cymbals and guitars, are not overly crisp and clear, though again they are adequate. There is not a lot of noticeable separation between the left and right channels, but thankfully there are not a lot of instruments and vocalists battling for space.

    The vocals are sometimes a little far back in the mix, and there are some slight, but noticeable, sound fluctuations towards the end of the performance.

    The extras are minimal to say the least. There's Subtitle Information, but this is simply brief details about each song that flashes up on the bottom of the screen as the song begins. The details include song author, album, and year of release. This same feature can be turned on when viewing Random Selection, which as the name suggests, throws up songs at random. The last extra is Umbrella Propaganda which is a single screen with a picture of four other Umbrella music releases.

    Overall this release is akin to watching a VHS copy. The audio lacks a crispness we have come to expect, and the video image is quite soft at the best of times. If you are a fan, then you will want to own this because it showcases a fine performance, and even the man himself seemed pleased as can be seen and heard during the short post-concert backstage footage. For the rest of us, I suspect there is nothing more than a passing interest in Lou Reed and this isn't going to make you rush out and check out more of the man's work. Fans will find it enjoyable though, so long as they don’t expect too much in the way of audio and video brilliance.

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  •   And I quote...
    "You can take the boy out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the boy..."
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
    • Centre Speaker:
    • Surrounds:
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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