Austin's South By Southwest 2014 lineup features the usual crop of hipster acts, but many of them probably wouldn't be around today if it wasn't for 2008 SXSW's keynote speaker, Lou Reed. (As the old adage goes, not many people bought the Velvet Underground's debut album, but everyone who did buy it formed a band.) So what better way to celebrate the late Lou's legacy than with a showcase featuring many of the Velvets' esteemed successors and admirers?
On Friday night — six years after Lou's SXSW keynote, five months after his death, and the day after the SXSW 2014 panel "Lou Reed: A Rock and Roll Heart" — Austin icon Alejandro Escovedo and the Bongos' Richard Barone organized a massive Lou Reed tribute concert at the Paramount Theater. Featuring 27 all-stars playing 24 songs over nearly three hours, the show was a wonderful (if uneven) homage to the man's illustrious, eclectic, and erratic catalog.
Some performances were brilliantly bizarre (Irish eccentric B.P. Fallon and new-school beat combo the Strypes tearing into "Vicious"; "RuPaul's Drag Race" winner Sharon Needles glamming it up on Lou's ode to Warhol superstar Candy Darling, "Candy Says"; Atlanta punks the Black Lips doing "Run, Run, Run" after threatening to cover the entirety of Lou and Metallica's "Lulu" album).
Some performances were jovially jammy (Bobby Bare Jr. doing a version of "Oh Sweet Nothing" inspired by My Morning Jacket's Bridge School Concert cover; Rosie Flores sweetly warbling "I Love You Suzanne;" Lucinda Williams doing "Pale Blue Eyes). And some were just plain epic (the Baseball Project — a supergroup comprising Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon, and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Mike Mills — doing all 17 minutes of "Sister Ray"; Spandau Ballet swooningly crooning "Satellite of Love").
And through it all, the stellar house band (Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan of the Patti Smith Group, Blondie's Clem Burke, Ivan Julian of Richard Hell & the Voidods fame) kept it all together...except when Alejandro Escovedo’s Fauntleroys attempted to cover “Waves of Fear" and things went horribly, horrifically, but amusingly awry, with the Fauntleroys having to start the song over three times.
The emotional peak of the night came when Lou's onetime Syracuse University classmate and comrade of more than 50 years, New York singer-songwriter Garland Jeffreys, performed a from-the-gut, down-in-the-crowd rendition of "I'm Waiting for My Man" that elicited the first standing ovation the night…but not before he delivered a lengthy, tearful eulogy that reminded everyone that Lou wasn't just a great artist, but a great friend and great person as well.
"Lou would have been very happy. I think he would have liked the show," Richard Barone later proudly proclaimed. Surely everyone at the Paramount agreed.
The setlist from the show was as follows:
"Sweet Jane" – Alejandro Escovedo & Richard Barone
"Cool It Down" – The Bizarros
"Romeo Had Juliet" – Cheetah Chrome
"Femme Fatale" – Cindy Lee Berryhill
"Vicious" – BP Fallon & The Strypes
"Oh Sweet Nothing" – Bobby Bare Jr.
"I'm Waiting for My Man" – Garland Jeffreys
"Perfect Day" – Louise Goffin
"Waves of Fear" – The Fauntleroys
"I Love You Suzanne" – Rosie Flores
"Coney Island Baby" – Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
"Candy Says" – Sharon Needles
"Smalltown" Joe Dallesandro"
"White Light/White Heat" – Alejandro Escovedo & Richard Barone
"All Tomorrow's Parties" – Richard Barone & Cindy Lee Berryhill
"Rock and Roll Heart" – Chuck Prophet
"Sally Can't Dance" – Jesse Malin
"Real Good Time Together" – The Fleshtones
"Walk on the Wild Side" – Suzanne Vega
"Kill Your Sons" – Wayne Kramer
"Pale Blue Eyes" – Lucinda Williams
"Run, Run, Run" – The Black Lips
"Sister Ray" – The Baseball Project
"What Goes On" – Sean Lennon
"Street Hassle" – Alejandro Escovedo
"Satellite of Love" – Spandau Ballet
"I'll Be Your Mirror" – Richard Barone
"Rock and Roll" – All-Stars