Sunday April 2, 2000. On Leonard Street, in downtown Manhattan, Lou Reed is into his third night at the tiny Knitting Factory. On the eve of the release of his new album ‘Ecstasy’ through Reprise, a work that marks a return to his favoured themes of sadomasochism and a life immersed in the New York netherworld, he clearly wants to see the whites of his audience’s eyes again.
Flanked by his now long-established band, Mike Rathke on guitar, Tommy ‘Thunder’ Smith on drums and the perpetually-grinning Fernando Saunders on bass, Reed offers a remorseless display of tunnel vision.
Thick, heavy and utterly nostalgia-free, Reed draws heavily on material from his last two albums – making every note sound like it’s been dunked in engine oil and slid screaming across New York just to be here.
Tracks like ‘Paranoia Key Of E’ and ‘Modern Dance’ from the new record, and ‘Riptide’ from ‘Set The Twilight Reeling’ are pulverising exercises in controlled sonic distortion.
There’s nothing pretty about it, but as the momentum of the gig builds, the effect is like being bulldozed into submission.
When Reed finally gets to ‘Sweet Jane’ after two long hours of intense street hassle, it feels like he’s been up there proving a point: He wants us to know he’s still out on the streets, still reporting from somewhere near the frontline. And tonight, he succeeded.