Lou Reed Sings “Sweet Jane” Live, Julian Schnabel Films It (2006)

“Lou Reed’s Berlin is a dis­as­ter, tak­ing the lis­ten­er into a dis­tort­ed and degen­er­ate demi­monde of para­noia, schiz­o­phre­nia, degra­da­tion, pill-induced vio­lence and sui­cide,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Stephen Davis in 1973, adding that “there are cer­tain records that are so patent­ly offen­sive that one wish­es to take some kind of phys­i­cal vengeance on the artists that per­pe­trate them.” Could this “last shot at a once-promis­ing career,” as Davis described it, real­ly have come from the one­time leader of as influ­en­tial a band as the Vel­vet Under­ground — from the man who could, just three years ear­li­er, have writ­ten a song like “Sweet Jane”?

Yet Lou Reed sur­vived Berlin’s drub­bing, and indeed spent the next forty years ful­fill­ing his promise, to the very end draw­ing the occa­sion­al round of pans (most resound­ing­ly for Lulu, his 2011 col­lab­o­ra­tion with Metal­li­ca) that ver­i­fied his artis­tic vital­i­ty. By the 21st cen­tu­ry, crit­i­cal opin­ion had come around on Berlin, and in 2003 even Rolling Stone put it on its list of the 500 great­est albums of all time.

Three years lat­er, Reed took the then-33-year-old rock-opera album on tour, play­ing it live with a 30-piece band and twelve cho­ris­ters. Painter-film­mak­er Julian Schn­abel designed the tour and shot a doc­u­men­tary of five nights of its per­for­mances in Brook­lyn, releas­ing it in 2008 as Lou Reed Berlin.

In the clip above, you can see the very last song of the show, played dur­ing the film’s clos­ing cred­its. It isn’t “Sad Song,” which draws the cur­tain over Berlin, but the last of a three-part encore that ends with none oth­er than “Sweet Jane.” Hav­ing first appeared on the Vel­vet Under­ground’s 1970 album Loaded (#110 on the Rolling Stone list to Berlin’s #344), the song became a favorite in Reed’s live per­for­mances in the decades there­after, an evo­ca­tion of a par­tic­u­lar cre­ative era in a career that encom­passed so many. “Good­bye, Lou,” Davis said to Reed at the end of his Berlin review, but for that album, and even more so for the man who made it, the show had only just begun.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­tin Scors­ese Cap­tures Lev­on Helm and The Band Per­form­ing “The Weight” in The Last Waltz

Jef­fer­son Air­plane Plays on a New York Rooftop; Jean-Luc Godard Cap­tures It (1968)

Jean-Luc Godard Shoots Mar­i­anne Faith­full Singing “As Tears Go By” (1966)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • steve says:

    I was dri­ving in the car recent­ly, when a song came on that start­ed with tablas. Then, that famous riff start­ed and I thought, “This could be the coolest ver­sion of ‘Sweet Jane’ yet.”

    Then, the vocals start­ed and I real­ized it was a song that was an FM hit a year before “Loaded.”

    Now, we know where Lou got the riff.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.