Over the years, many have postured that Lou Reed’s asocial public manner and iconoclastic opinions were nothing more than a bit of rock ‘n’ roll rabblerousing. That viewpoint gets a handy leg-up when you consider the fact that he was often openly critical of The Beatles, but he was also gracious enough to play a tribute concert in honour of John Lennon.
He may well have once said, “The Beatles? I never liked The Beatles, I thought they were garbage.” But clearly, that caustic wrath had subsided – if it was ever really there at all – by the time a John Lennon tribute came around in Liverpool in 1990 he happily took part and offer up two great covers and some kind words.
After all, he did occasionally let the mask slip and once opined that a Lennon song was one of the greatest of all time. “[Lennon] wrote one song that I admire tremendously, I think it was one of the greatest songs I ever heard, called ‘Mother’. Now, with that, and he was capable of great pop stuff, which is nothing to sneeze at, but the question you asked me was ‘on another level’.”
Thus, it is no surprise that the song made it into his setlist at the event. After a performance of ‘Jealous Guy’ that seems suitably Velvet Underground-esque slapdash and unrehearsed, Reed seems more at home with the dark depth of ‘Mother’. Growing into the performance as he ups the decibels for a gathering finale.
The concert was held at Pier Head and housed a plethora of amazing musical talents who admired Lennon. The wonderful Al Green sang ‘Power to the People’, Terence Trent D’Arby tackled ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’, and Kylie Minogue performed a disco incarnation of ‘Help’ that nobody ever knew they needed.
Ray Charles also graced the star-studded stage as well as Cyndi Lauper, Joe Cocker and a host of other huge names. Marking ten years on from the death of the late Liverpudlian legend, the celebration was officially sanctioned by Yoko Ono who had a big say in booking the acts for what would’ve been his 50th birthday year. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr also sent video messages, but George Harrison was a notable absentee.
Unfortunately, the recording quality of Reed’s performance is somewhat shaky, and he might not be at his trailblazing best as he seemingly uncertainly makes his way through the covers. However, seeing him take on the anthems is interesting in of itself. So much has been made of the divergent sides of pop culture that they occupied but this seems to touch upon a contrary truth.