Lou Reed was more than a musician. He was a poet with lungs of smoke and velvet. He crafted a blend of pop, psychedelic rock, and all things avant-garde, writing songs that were more like epic poems dripping with sex and drugs against a grimy, gloomy New York City backdrop. He made heroes out of society’s misfits, crafting anthems for the oddballs and the outliers.
Nine years ago today (Oct. 27), the underground alt-rock deity passed away from liver disease. To celebrate his life and legacy, here are 5 soul-stirring live performances.
1. Live in Paris, 1993
Reed fronted the Velvet Underground in the late 1960s. On the band’s 1967 debut album appeared an early Reed original, the long-celebrated “Heroin.”
Nearly 30 years later, performing the song solo in Paris, the crowds still go wild from the sound of the very first note.
2. “I’m Waiting for the Man” with David Bowie
Another Reed-penned track from the Velvet Underground’s debut, “I’m Waiting for the Man” has been covered by several other great rockers, including The Stooges and David Bowie. Seemingly everyone has put their own unique spin on the classic.
Watch Reed and the Thin White Duke perform a Bowie-fied “Waiting for the Man.”
3. Live at Farm Aid, 1985
“Walk On The Wild Side” touches on topics that were considered taboo upon the song’s release in 1972, but it soon became a counterculture anthem and one of Reed’s biggest hits.
Performing the tune live at Farm Aid in 1985, the artist added a brighter, funkier, more urgent arrangement to a normally slow-burning, leisurely waltz of a song.
4. Live at Capitol Theatre, 1984
“Sweet Jane” was a later Velvet Underground recording that Reed continued to use in his live solo performances. It’s a classic that has also seen its fair share of covers by everyone from Mott The Hoople to Cowboy Junkies to Miley Cyrus.
5. Live at Olympia, Paris, 1974
A distinctive performer with an instantly recognizable voice and commanding presence, Reed knew how to put on a show. Watch a blonde Reed stumble through, yet captivate during his set in Paris in 1974.
Photo: Julian Schnabel / Pitch Perfect PR