By: David Schultz
Fans of Lou Reed have always possessed an unwavering sense of loyalty towards the mercurial legend. It’s been said that they would pay top dollar to see Reed bang two cats together and walk away raving about the avant-garde originality of the feat. Perhaps giddy from the praise he earned by resurrecting Berlin from its depressing grave, Reed tested the “two cat” theory at New York City’s Blender Theater at Gramercy by revisiting another one of his Seventies efforts, the unlistenable Metal Machine Music. More than 30 years later, people still don’t know what to make of Reed’s hour long opus of formless feedback. Was it a serious effort? Was it Reed’s unique way of getting out of his record deal with RCA? Did the label one up him by calling his bluff and releasing it? It surely didn’t help matters when Lester Bangs proclaimed it the greatest record ever made or when German orchestras started treating it as a source for classical interpretations.
Seeing as others do it for him quite admirably, Reed has never been one to go out of his way to perpetuate his own mythology. In fact, he probably spreads ample disinformation about his past either out of boredom, amusement or a sheer disdain for inquisitive reporters. Sitting behind a keyboard and some assorted electronics, Reed began Friday night’s show, the second of two, by addressing the Metal Machine myth as directly as he ever does, i.e. obliquely. In introducing his inaptly named Metal Machine Trio, a quartet consisting of himself and Sarth Calhoun tweaking various knobs and saxophonists Ulrich Krieger and John Zorn wailing away furiously, Reed pondered if the fact that we were all here meant that he must have been serious about the original effort.
No one can fault Reed for false advertising. The tickets for the show made no bones about what Reed was offering this night, informing the unwary that there would be “no songs, no vocals.” Right from the start, Reed and Calhoun stoked a flicker of pulsing feedback and nursed it into an ear shattering blast of noise, the walls vibrating with the overwhelming hum. It proved too much for some: within ten minutes, multiple fans seated near the front rows angrily grabbed their coats and despondently headed for the exits. Reed did pick up a guitar about half way in but only used it to crank out the same note in a repetitive drone. While not exactly creating music in the traditional sense, Krieger and Zorn proved fascinating as their improvisational runs had an eclectic howl and streetwise hipness that approached art.
Adopting Reed’s penchant for succinct expression, the night could pretty much be described as follows: for an hour, Lou Reed made noise. People sat and listened. To the best of my knowledge, no cats were harmed . . . unless they listened to the show.