The Adventures of
Captain Zero
and his trusty sidekick Numba Wan
Posted Friday, June 20, 2003
Lou Reed
17 June 2003 Boulder Theater, Boulder, Colorado

At sixty-one years old, Lou Reed should be settling down to his AARP monthly newsletter, griping about how kids these days ain’t got no goddamned respect. He should be waging low-intensity tit-for-tat battles in an inter-generational war with the local hoodlums who whack off in his tool shed and fire projectiles at his cat. Instead he came to Boulder and played a two and a half hour set that mixed old favorites with new gems, winning the crowd over and even being won over himself by their enthusiastic adoration.

Reed opened strumming the seminal three cords of Sweet Jane, stopping a few times to banter with the audience and his fellow musicians. After introducing the band, he explained that this was how to make a career on three chords, but then let us in on a secret hidden fourth chord, which he demonstrated before launching into the song. He was in good spirits and seemed to be enjoying himself up there, cracking jokes and imparting wisdom. He has a commanding but not overbearing stage presence, yielding at appropriate times to the other musicians, but bringing it all back together.

How Do You Think It Feels turned into a very satisfying rocker that earned the first of several standing ovations for the night. They played Vanishing Act, a sparse and repetitive but beautiful track from The Raven. A sweet love song written by bassist/guitarist/drummer Fernando went a little long, but the audience was in an indulgent mood and heaped applause. Venus in Furs was a treat, especially the discordant and transcendent cello solo at the end, which earned cellist Jane a well deserved standing ovation of her own. All Tomorrow’s Parties was radically different from the Nico fronted version, but very satisfying all the same. Dirty Blvd rocked convincingly. Mr. Reed took a poll to see who thought they lived in a small town. After conflicting applause, he said we needed to discuss it further, then launched into a song about wanting to get out of one.

A highlight of the show was the title track from The Raven, which started off with Master Ren dancing some tae chi moves to appropriately somber moody music and led into Mr. Reed’s spoken rendition of the slightly altered Edgar Allen Poe poem, whispering one moment and shouting the next. The standing ovation at the end of that song seemed to affect Mr. Reed, and he warmly thanked the audience and said that had never happened before. He said they should move to Boulder. The encore started with Candy Says, performed beautifully by vocalist Antony. The ensemble collected up front to bow again, then went back to their instruments and ended with Perfect Day, what seemed the perfect ending to the show. The house lights went up and most of the audience got up to leave, with a sizable minority continuing the vociferous cheering for The Man. My hep-senses were up and I had a feeling things weren’t over yet, especially when a roadie started tuning Mr. Reed’s guitar again. Evidently, Mr. Reed decided to treat us to something special and he emerged after about five minutes to a half empty house with most of the band and played the best song written in the 1960’s, Heroin, to the utter delight of those still present. The song is as honest and affecting as they get. There I stood on a chair in the intimate Boulder Theater watching the one and only Lou Reed play such an amazing testament to bittersweet modern junkie life. The only thing missing was Mo Tucker’s heartbeat percussion. It seemed a spontaneous parting gift to an adoring crowd that had indulged and appreciated the new songs and swooned for the old favorites.

With a vague feeling of possibility, we hung around afterwards, hoping to see Mr. Reed and ask him to sign our Velvet Underground & Nico cd. A small group of young hardcore fans had gathered under a parking structure across from the back door as roadies dispassionately packed the gear up a ramp into a truck. A light sprinkle gave an appropriate urban feel to the streets of Boulder, as we waited back there to see our underground idol. I thought of all the old wet streets Mr. Reed must have trod in the caverns of Manhattan a lifetime ago, a lost modern American soul seeking his fix. Maybe in those days we would have gotten what we wanted, but the old fox slipped out the front in a van sent by the Hotel Boulderado, probably wanting to get on with his evening and his life. I can understand, as a curmudgeon-in-training myself, that the constant demands of strangers would strain a world-weary soul.

On the way home, our car got targeted by a pack of hoodlums dropping heavy goober-filled torpedoes from a suburban pedestrian bridge at one o’clock in the morning. Their aim was surprisingly accurate, and we had to stop at a gas station to clean the windshield. Goddamned kids ain’t got no friggin’ respect.