In stark contrast with the minimalist approach that characterizes both his beginnings with The Velvet Underground and much of his later career, here Lou Reed presents a very triumphant, glamorous rendition of his music. Rock’n’Roll Animal starts off magnificently with a beautiful instrumental introduction which leads into a powerful version of “Sweet Jane”, one of Lou’s most famous songs and one of rock music’s most effective riffs. This is followed by a breath taking, spine chilling interpretation of “Heroin”, the archetype controversial song. If an artist’s job is to induce ideas into us by communicating at the emotional level rather than at the rational one, considering how the imagery that Lou Reed and his band throw upon us is incredibly vivid there can be no doubt that this is not only a work of art, but actually a masterpiece. Certainly this is as close as I will ever get to experiencing how it really feels. And yet…
The remastered CD version I’m currently listening to includes here a couple of songs that weren’t on the original album, “How Do You Think It Feels” and “Caroline Says I”. These don’t add much to the collection; one could almost say that they actually lower the overall average. On the other hand those who, like me, suffer from “completeness-mania” will probably be happy that these songs have been made available.
The original program resumes with a powerful rendition of “White Light / White Heat“, a fast rock’n’roll number from the Velvet Underground period. The atmosphere changes all of a sudden to a feeling of impending doom with “Lady Day”, from the Berlin album. Rock’n’Roll Animal closes on a much lighter tone with the humourous “Rock’n’ Roll”.
This is one of the great rock live albums. The songs are mostly masterpieces, very well arranged and played by accomplished musicians. In my opinion it has aged well, even though its style dates it unmistakably in the first half of the 1970’s. What can I say more? I wish I was there; instead, I urge you to buy this album, and possibly also Lou Reed Live, taken from the same concert.