I played hooky from Ottawa's jazz festival last night to head down the road two hours to Montreal to catch the trio of Lou Reed, John Zorn and Laurie Anderson. It promised to be entertaining; it was that in more ways than one.
What began as a capacity audience was reduced by about 20 percent after the first, long piece—which was greeted by loud, sustained booing, catcalls and angry expletives all around me. Those who were clapping seemed to be momentarily overwhelmed.
"Play some music," yelled someone behind me and to my left.
"If you don't think this is music then get the fuck out of here," shouted Zorn, dismissing the booers with both arms.
What were these 500 or so disgruntled people expecting? Versions of "Sweet Jane" or "Walk On The Wild Side?" Perhaps an electronic rendering of Zorn's later, peaceful film music? Maybe for $100 and up they were expecting a show that met each and every one of their individual wishes.
What they received were huge slabs of sound, led mostly by Reed's heavily processed guitar with Zorn's manic, overblown alto roaring over top. Anderson acted mostly as the tiller person, steering this massive craft with slashes and filigrees. At its most noisy, it resembled Metal Machine Music meets Albert Ayler, which was stimulating, but there were long swatches of great beauty, as well.
After a main set of about 63 minutes, and a generous encore, the musicians stood and waved to prolonged cheers, acknowledging those who had remained open enough to see where the journey went.