Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and a Bunch 'o' Buddhists in Chandler

Categories: Concert Review

lou reed.jpg
Charles Gabrean
Laurie Anderson's backing guitarist. Lou something.

"Have you ever been given meditation instructions at a concert before?" the emcee asked as the crowd sat down at Chandler Center for the Arts to witness a benefit concert by Velvet Underground legend Lou Reed, his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson.

We had not, but that quickly changed. It was just one odd moment in an afternoon filled with them at the show, which benefited the Yongey Peace Prevails Center, run by Reed and Anderson's Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. But, hey, when Lou fucking Reed is in Chandler, a city best known nationally as that place where Matt Leinart's hot-tubbing takes place, playing a show in broad daylight, nothing should be too surprising.

The Yongey Peace Prevails Center is a project by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and the man himself was in attendance Sunday, much to the delight of the many older Asian women in attendance, who smiled and pointed toward him in the same star-struck way the mohawked girl with her lipstick smeared across her face like Heath Ledger's Joker looked at Reed. Yes, indeed, it was quite an interesting mix of people in the audience. I'm not really qualified to pass judgment on anything about Buddhist teachers, but I enjoyed Rinpoche's pre-show talk. In fact, I enjoyed it enough that I won't do the disservice of attempting to rehash the highlights ("The Monkey Mind") and, in doing so, accidentally ridicule it.

After sets by a local husband/wife violin/guitar duo named Lyra husband-wife violin/guitar
duo and an orchestra from the Chinese Cultural Center, Reed and Anderson took stage, holed up in a den-like pile of guitars, keyboards, exotic instruments, amps and monitors set up on the back of the stage, behind where the openers had been. Anderson, who's been recording since the 70s, started things off by singing "The Dream Before," a twisted continuation of the Hansel and Gretel story.

The song, like almost everything else played that afternoon, featured heavy distortion and feedback, which Reed has long been almost-obsessively devoted to. To be honest, and with all due respect toward Reed, for me it got to be too much after an hour or so. Next, Anderson tackled Reed's classic "Pale Blue Eyes," the best known song played during the show. Reed joined in on vocals part way through, but even on his own songs Reed played second fiddle to his wife. When it was over, the crowd remained eerily silent as Reed left the stage while Anderson performed a spoken-word piece where her voice was made impossibly deep (it sounded like The Devil in a horror movie) while drips of soft electronic music emerged from her keyboard.

Reed came back to sing "Who Am I? (Tripitena's Song)" from his 2003 album The Raven then Anderson delivered what I thought was the highlight of the night, an amusing spoken-word piece about canoeing in Utah that's (probably) called "The Green River" (lyrics here). Anderson is a gifted storyteller, and tended to use less wild distortion with her spoken pieces, which really made for some nice moments.

Next, a surprise apperance by Steve Hunter, the guitarst who worked with Reed in his Berlin days as well as with Alice Cooper and Mitch Ryder, turned things toward the more traditional, as he belted out blues solos while Reed played the only thing resembling rythm guitar we heard. Then, it was back to Anderson, who played her bopping "Only An Expert." Even the encore, "The Lost Art of Conversation," was an Anderson song. Despite the double-billing, this was her afternoon. There are worse fates -- like more of Lou's feedback loops.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed benefit for the Yongey Peace Prevails Center.

Better Than: Plastic Ono Band? I mean, John Lennon is John Lennon, obviously, but I greatly prefer Anderson to Yoko Ono.

Personal Bias: Obviously, like most folks there, I wouldn't have complained if Reed did nothing but 40-year-old Velvet Underground songs. It was nice they did one ("Pale Blue Eyes") actually, but I would have liked to hear Reed sing more of it.

Random Detail: They ran out of Snickers during the intermission so I had to eat a Mr. Goodbar. Who buys those things when they have another option?

Further Listening: Lyra, the New Agey husband/wife duo who opened, was actually quite good. Check them out.

By the Way: After writing four show reviews in four days, I don't know if I'm seeing anything until Conor Oberst next Tuesday. What a "weekend."

One More Thing:
Lou Reed is the guy in the vest. We weren't supposed to take any pictures, but when I realized the man himself was two rows in front of me watching the opening acts, I broke that rule.


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