Lou Reed, Steve Hunter, Fernando Saunders, Tony “Thunder” Smith. Directed by Julian Schnabel.
First released in 1973 hot on the heels of his hugely popular breakthrough album Transformer, Lou Reed’s follow-up Berlin was at the time an equally spectacular commercial and critical disaster. Undeservedly so, because, despite their dark subject matter, the songs are musically among the most beautiful of Reed’s whole career. As a result, the album has gradually undergone a critical resurrection and is now widely regarded as Reed’s finest work. It’s a concept album of sorts, set in the milieu Reed knew so well of New York’s sleazy underbelly, and recounting the gradual collapse of a marriage as a result of drug addiction and infidelity. In 2007, Reed took the Berlin album on tour, accompanied by a small orchestra, a choir and backing singer Anohni (formerly Antony of Antony & the Johnsons). One of the first performances, at New York’s St Ann’s Warehouse, was filmed by Reed’s great friend, the artist Julian Schnabel. It’s a fantastic document of one of rock’s most compelling and gifted performers. “The songs stand up,” said The Guardian. “Still pack a wallop. And Reed’s gentle, world-weary delivery finds new angles into this material, making it bleed afresh to clean the wound.”