Published Jul 05, 2010When your name is Lou Reed, you carry with you the expectation that each time you perform live, you'll play at least a few of your hits - "Walk on the Wild Side," maybe, or "Sweet Jane." Reed learned that the hard way Friday night (July 2), as his set at the Montreal Jazz Festival, which eschewed his trademark '70s favourites for free-jazz improvisation, was greeted by a series of boos and, in some cases, walkouts.
Reed's improv set, which was performed alongside avant-garde saxophone hero John Zorn and Reed's wife (multi-instrumentalist Laurie Anderson), received furious reactions from fans expecting songs from his early solo albums or his catalogue with the Velvet Underground, including a plea from one fan to "Play some real music!"
"If you don't think this is music, you can get the fuck out of here," Zorn responded to the boos and jeers, causing a number of fans to immediately start heading for the exits after just two songs.
In an interview that day, Reed promised a "fearless night of non-rock" to be played "100% improvised," but the jazz festival program, which hinted at Reed's Velvet Underground past, led many attendees to believe he might play some songs from that era. Instead, the performance was completely instrumental and didn't include a rhythm section, causing much disappointment to Reed fans, some of whom paid close to $100 for their ticket.
Of course, that's not to say the performance wasn't a success for those who appreciate free-jazz - many Canadian publications praised the performance, and our reviewer mentions that Anderson "played the shit out of the violin" and that Zorn "was in top form, as usual," adding, "If you went in with no preconceptions, there was some good, if not great, music to be heard, but for those wearing their VU and Nico T-shirts, it was absolutely intolerable."
You can read our full review here.