In 1994, with Lou Reed at the peak of his powers, the Velvet Underground frontman was firing on all cylinders as headed out on the road as part of his now revered Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal tour.
With Reed’s stock rising by every growing day across Europe, his album Transformer had charted at number one in France two years prior and the anticipation around his 1974 show at the Olympia venue in Paris had the city bubbling with excitement.
Reed, treated as a true icon on foreign soil way before America recognised his superior skillset, developed a special relationship with the French audience who were, at the point of his tour, the first to truly believe in him and his generational talent. Stepping out on stage as a bonafide icon, the reception he received at the Olympia is one of a true rockstar.
Following the commercial success of Transformer, which was largely thanks to the timeless outsider anthem ‘Walk On The Wild Side‘, Reed’s magnum opus has been solidified and planted in the annals of rock and roll history. It would have been easy for the former Velvet Underground man to chase financial gain at this period of his life, perhaps revert to creating a radio-friendly follow-up and watch the cheques roll in. Reed, however, instead opted to make the concept album Berlin, a project which told the story of two junkies who fall in love together in the city.
At the time of release, the record was branded “a disaster” by critics. However, much like the work of many prolific artists, as the decades passed people succumbed to its genius and Berlin gained the appropriate recognition. Commercially, the album was also panned in the States. The silver lining, however, is that the record still sold well in France and the United Kingdom where Reed’s creativity was understood on another level.
His performance at the Olympia in Paris is the only video footage available from this fascinating era in his career, a time which saw Reed anger the critics who loved Transformer with his inability to conform to the norms that were expected from his live shows. As the title of the show suggested, he unleashed his inner rock ‘n’ roll animal rather than stringently performing the songs as they first sounded on the record.
The performance arrived as a poignant period in Reed’s career, one that represented him as a true artist who lived and died by doing things on his own terms—an attitude that made him so endearing to the French crowd.
Watch footage of the iconic set, below.