If you could dream up a set list from Lou Reed's post-Velvet Underground, Transformer-era solo career, this show with the Tots just might be it. From "Heroin," "Sister Ray," and "I'm Waiting For My Man" to "Rock and Roll" and "Walk on the Wild Side," the best of Reed is here, in all its unvarnished, slap-dash, ramshackle glory. The following year, Reed would immortalize a subset of these tracks with a different band for the live Rock 'n' Roll Animal recording that broke him with wider audiences and stands as a classic today. This set highlights Reed in a stage of still perfecting a stylistic shift into glam rock, a transformation that remains controversial in some quarters: some call it the pinnacle of rock and roll achievement while others remain miffed by it. But it's hard to imagine anyone not digging the genius of these simple riffs.
For anyone not up-to-speed with the story to this point, Reed had completed the Transformer album, produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, in 1972. The project was a watershed for him critically and artistically and the live set largely relied on the new repertoire, as well as some older VU work. For the road show, Reed was backed by the Tots featuring Vinny Laporta and Eddie Reynolds on guitars, Bobby Resigno on bass and Scottie Clark on drums. He toured with the combo for much of 1972 and 1973 (they are the same band featured on a much-bootlegged 1972 set from Hempstead, NY).
On this night in Springfield, "I'm Waiting For My Man" is slowed down, taking on the flavor and feelings of a hymn. "Heroin" is of course just that, going as far as to make reference to feeling like "Jesus' Son," while "Walk and Talk It" is a rock and roll rave-up previously performed by the Velvets as well as on Reed's self-titled solo debut. The Loaded classic, "Sweet Jane," is delivered at a more mellow, amped-down pace, and includes the "heavenly wine and roses" bridge section edited out of the original studio version after Reed had left the Velvet Underground. Surprisingly, Reed slides right into "Vicious" which features a fairly similar riff.
"Satellite of Love" is a little ropey here, but it ultimately rocks sweetly. "I'm So Free," from Transformer, rings with the requisite swagger. The raw performance of "Walk on the Wild Side" here would hardly have you believing it's the classic that it became, and yet it's interesting to hear this diamond in the rough version of it.
Very little in the way of stage banter is on offer from Reed who is a man of few words, accompanied by a band of men who speak even fewer. Nevertheless, they rock the bejeezus out of songs like the appropriately titled "Rock and Roll," which would become something of a signature tune for Reed following the release of Rock 'n' Roll Animal. Again, Reed doesn't say much about rock and roll explicitly in the song, but the emotion of his poetry packs a punch: "Rock and Roll" says everything you need to know about the music that Reed and the Tots play to the hilt. Indeed, Reed's take on music in this crucial period is a testament to the times, time when lives - even those of kids who were "just five-years-old" - were saved by rock and roll. Long live the Tots!