Perfect Night: Live in London

Lou Reed

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Perfect Night: Live in London Review

by Mark Deming

By 1997, the "Unplugged" craze, in which nearly every rocker under the sun decided to look back on their songbook with tasteful and unamplified maturity, had just about run its course, but that wasn't about to stop Lou Reed from belatedly trying the same gimmick for his performance at London's 1997 Meltdown Music Festival. Reed's semi-acoustic performance was also prompted by the latest bit of electronic gimmickry to catch his fancy, a special feedback-defeating pickup system that gave his acoustic guitar "the sound of diamonds" (Reed's phrase). While it's difficult to say just what a diamond is supposed to sound like, it is true that his guitar sounds quite good on this set. Reed and his band approach the respectfully quiet arrangements with precision and no small amount of enthusiasm (especially bassist Fernando Saunders), and Lou is in unusually good voice here; one of the traditional failings of his live albums has been that he doesn't always sing and play well at the same time, but here he hit his marks with ease. However, you've got to wonder about the choice of material on Perfect Night; if Reed really intended this to be an overview of the breadth of his career, he wasn't doing himself any favors by throwing in "Vicious," "Original Wrapper," or "Sex With Your Parents," while "Kicks" and "Riptide" aren't especially well-served by stripping them of their electric guitars. There are enough good tracks here ("I'll Be Your Mirror," "Perfect Day," and "New Sensations") to indicate that Reed might have a good acoustic album in him, but before he tries something like Perfect Night again, he ought to sit down with some friends who can edit a better set list for him.

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