Lou Reed-A Night with Lou Reed (1983)

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Released 11-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Subtitle Commentary-Minimal info on each song
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 59:14
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Clarke Santee

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Lou Reed
Robert Quine
Fernando Saunders
Fred Maher
Case Click
RPI $24.95 Music Lou Reed

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Information Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Backstage footage of the band during credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    One of the distinguishing features of Lou Reed's distinguished musical career has been a lack of decent quality live recordings - I remember as a Uni student paying good money for a Lou Reed album (Live at Kansas Max's) that had been recorded using, of all high-tech appliances, a portable cassette recorder and a hand-held microphone. The quality of that recording was surprisingly good, but I'm pleased to report that A Night With Lou Reed is much better. Long having parted company with the Velvet Underground, this recording was made in 1983 at The Bottom Line club in New York City. The impromptu backing band (half of Richard Hell & the Voidoids) provides strong support and features Robert Quine on matching Stratocaster guitars, Fernando Saunders on bass and Fred Maher on drums and, of course, the man himself on vocals and Fender.

    The style of the set is best described as raw. No special effects or girlie backing vocals here - just a plain old 4 piece band playing good ol' alternative rock. Herbie Flower's dual, opposing bass-lines on Walk On The Wild Side is replaced by a simpler, yet pleasing, arrangement by Fernando Saunders. Varied guitar tone and style is achieved by swapping and changing Strats and we are treated to a How-I-Do-Feedback lesson by Lou on Kill Your Sons (40:25). The 13 songs cover a 15 year span from 7 albums starting with rock'n'roll from The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967) to the current (at the time!) Martial Law and Don't Talk To Me About Work from Legendary Hearts (1983).

    This is a vintage performance from the Godfather of punk and alternative rock and the antithesis of most modern popular music production. It represents a return to live performance after 2 years off the road. Lou Reed was in fine form and looked like he was enjoying a triumphant return to his club roots in Greenwich Village. The adulating crowd included Andy Warhol, and Adam Ant was also mingled in there (though I'm not sure I'd recognise him without the make-up!). You can also explain to your kids the memories of  club cigarette-smoke haze as, in these politically correct times, we're unlikely to see  tobacco-enhanced public performances ever again!

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Track Listing

1. Sweet Jane
2. I'm Waiting For The Man
3. Martial Law
4. Don't Talk To Me About Work
5. Women
6. Waves Of Fear
7. Walk On The Wild Side
8. Turn Out The Lights
9. New Age
10. Kill Your SOns
11. Satellite Of Love
12. White Light / White Heat
13. Rock 'n ' Roll

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer was quite good considering its age and is a testament to the enduring qualities of video as opposed to film archiving.

    The transfer is presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio and is thus not 16 x 9 enhanced.

    The whole video is beset by soft focus and slightly jerky action; probably a legacy of its NTSC origins. The set was pretty gloomily lit and shadow detail was limited, but there is no significant low level noise.

    Lou's skin colours were accurately rendered in the spotlight, but due to the minimalist lighting, the rest of the band and audience were largely drowned out in the blue-red, brothel-style lighting so much loved by lighting techs of the 80s.

    There was mild posterization of Lou's facial features as highlighted by the spotlight but aliasing was pretty well absent which is a credit to the transfer. The feature was shot in video and so there are no film artefacts; fortunately there aren't any signs of analogue video tape defects.

    There aren't subtitles, as such, but enabling the feature provides a caption to the beginning of each song with its title, origin and author.

    The disc is a single layer DVD-5 and hence has no layer transition point.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The sound quality is good but as befits a live recording studio processing has been kept to a minimum - this enhances the 'live' feel. It's definitely a case of what you see is what you get, including lapses of microphone technique and consequent occasional lyric drop-outs. There's also a pregnant pause between the first and second tracks due to clumsy editing.

    Just the one track available, in strictly stereo Dolby Digital 2.0 recorded in 48/24 at 384 kbps.

    Dialogue was reasonably easy to discern despite lapses of microphone technique and subsequent processing. Subtitles of the lyrics would have been good as most of Lou Reed's songs stand alone as poetry without the music.

    There were no problems with audio synch.

    As this was Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo there was no use made of centre, surround or subwoofers. Stereo imaging was good, even with just the two channels, with no difficulty in locating the source of instruments on the soundstage.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Extras were conspicuous by their absence - this is a straight transfer of a TV special, from the Madman stable. Those interested in more background information are recommended to check out the Classic Albums feature on Transformer.


    1.33:1 static selection of chapter, random play with or without captions.


    Single sentence title of song, author, source album and date of release.

Madman Propaganda

    Slicks of four further Madman productions (Marianne Faithful, The Chieftains, Rickie Lee Jones and John Lee Hooker).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The only apparent difference between the R1 and R4 is that the R1 version is listed with a PCM stereo, rather than Dolby Digital, soundtrack. If this is correct the PCM version may be slightly superior due to its higher bitrate.


    A Night With Lou Reed is a special and rare glimpse of the man playing, at an intimate club level, a wide selection of his rejuvenated material. The backing band is excellent and this is a sweet live performance.

    The video quality is suitably good for the occasion.

    The audio quality is good, though of the bare-bones two channel variety.

    The extras are just about non-existent. Sourcing and authoring DVD extras is a time consuming and expensive business and publishing houses have to judge the equation between quality and quantity of material. I am very happy to see a rare and decent live recording of Lou Reed made available at all, but think that with an artist of his stature and importance at least a discography and bio could have been included - for now the Classic Album mentioned above makes a good companion disc.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-900E, using RGB output
DisplayPioneer SD-T50W1 (127cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderNaim AV2. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersML Aeon front. B&W LRC6 Centre. ML Script rear. REL Strata III SW.

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