By JON PARELES
Published: December 17, 2013
Righteous guitar noise began and ended the memorial for Lou Reedon Monday night at the Apollo Theater. It was a celebration, for an invited audience of family and friends, of what more than one speaker called his “complexity”: his kindness and his asperity, his spirituality and his earthiness, his groundbreaking music and his silent meditations.
“He lived for beauty,” said his widow, the performance artist Laurie Anderson. “Lou knew what he was doing and what he was going for. His incredible complexity and his anger were part of his beauty.”
Early arrivals heard Marc Ribot and Doug Wieselman, with their electric guitars cranked up, playing a dissonant, pealing, improvisational duet that eventually resolved into “When the Saints Go Marching In.” At the end, Patti Smith led a band in the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray,” adding more-uplifting lyrics to its tale of drugs, sex and murder, as Ms. Anderson and members of Mr. Reed’s tai chi class demonstrated graceful moves.
Through three hours of music and remembrances, the songs Mr. Reed wrote for the Velvet Underground and through a constantly changing solo career — hard-nosed and unflinching, unguarded and tender, ferocious and delicate — were set alongside his dedication to tai chi and Buddhism and his 21 years with Ms. Anderson. “There was never a single doubt that we loved each other beyond anything else, from the time when we first met until the moment he died,” she said.
The memorial took place 50 days after Mr. Reed’s death on Oct. 27, Ms. Anderson explained, at the end of the 49 days of what Tibetan Buddhists call the bardo, a transitional state after death.
She also noted that the Apollo is on 125th Street, a few blocks from the corner where, in a definitive Velvet Underground song, the narrator waits in “I’m Waiting for the Man.” Mr. Reed’s longtime producer, Hal Willner, and Paul Simon cited Mr. Reed’s lifelong admiration of African-American music, from doo-wop to Ornette Coleman to Nicki Minaj.
Ms. Anderson said that Mr. Reed wrote songs in single bursts. “He would wake up in the middle of the night and just write the song down and it was complete,” she said. “He never changed a word. He thought, ‘First thought, best thought.’ ”
Mr. Simon sang the Velvets’ “Pale Blue Eyes,” marveling at its beauty and admitting there were lines he never understood. Emily Haines, from the Canadian band Metric, sang “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” and Jenni Muldaur sang the pensive “Jesus.” Deborah Harry rocked through “White Light/White Heat.”
Ms. Smith chose “Perfect Day” for what she called “Lou’s most poignant lyric”: “You made me forget myself/I thought I was someone else, someone good.” The a cappella doo-wop group the Persuasions reworked Mr. Reed’s “Turning Time Around.” Antony Hegarty, who appeared in the stage production of Mr. Reed’s album “Berlin,” performed a slow, poignant, tremulous “Candy Says.” Julian Schnabel, who filmed “Berlin,” calmly recited the patricidal, carnage-filled “Rock Minuet.”
The saxophonist John Zorn represented Mr. Reed’s improvisational side with a squealing, scurrying, exultantly perpetual-motion yawp of a solo. And Philip Glass, on piano, accompanied a recitation of the Kaddish prayer.
Maureen Tucker, the Velvet Underground’s drummer, read a message from John Cale, its keyboardist and violist, saying: “Regardless of our differences, we never really drifted too far from what initially brought us together. I guess that’s what real friendship is, and I miss my friend.”
Mr. Willner recalled that Mr. Reed’s albums, including “Berlin” and “Metal Machine Music,” were venomously reviewed at first, only to be acclaimed later. The tai chi master Ren GuangYi gave a silent demonstration.
Videos of Mr. Reed showed him performing as a bleached-blonde rocker, deadpanning his way through droll interviews and popping up in films. And at the end, Ms. Anderson spoke about life together as a couple. “We talked nonstop about everything conceivable for 21 years,” she said. “We talked about how to make something beautiful, what to do when you fail, and how to make something supremely ugly.”
She added: “Almost every day we said, ‘You are the love of my life,’ or some version of that, in one of our many private and somewhat bizarre languages. We knew exactly what we had, and we were beyond grateful.”
Mr. Reed’s last words, Ms. Anderson said, were “Take me out into the light!”
via dr robert