Robert Quine has said that the personal and musical differences that led to the end of his working relationship with Lou Reed had put a wall between them well before he finally gave Reed his notice. While Quine never failed to deliver on-stage, the tension became audible in their music, and Live in Italy captures the best band of Reed's solo career about a year past its peak, not long before it fell apart for the first time (Lou would reassemble the group for the world tour that followed New Sensations -- a job Quine said he took solely for the money). Consequently, this isn't the ideal document of this band -- but it also makes clear that even on a lesser night, Reed, Quine, Fernando Saunders, and Fred Maher were a force to be reckoned with. While Quine's performance isn't flattered by this album's mix, his edgy lines blend superbly with Reed's, and both are in fine fettle, while Saunders shines on bass and Maher's rock-solid drumming holds everything firmly in place. Reed is on fire on most of these songs, and while this plays for the most part like a "Best of Lou Reed" set, he pulls out sharp, impassioned performances on every cut, doing lean-and-mean justice to Velvet Underground classics like "White Light/White Heat" and "Sister Ray," and rescuing the unnerving "Kill Your Sons" from the oblivion of Sally Can't Dance. Are there bootlegs or live videos that capture this band on better nights? Yes. Does that change the fact this is Reed's strongest live album? Not a bit.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming