27 October 2018 marks the 5th anniversary of Lou Reed’s death. Given the enormous influence Lou has had on all corners of contemporary rock music, the day cannot pass without a celebration to mark it.
Local music legend, Greg Dear, has put together a band featuring some of Perth’s finest musicians and will perform a three-hour show to celebrate the legacy of Lou’s music. Accompanying the 6-piece band is a 4-piece horn section and backing singers, so that full justice can be done to those songs that need all those trimmings. This special event takes place at Badlands Bar on Saturday 27 October.
“I've been a fan of Lou Reed since I was 12 years old," says Dear, “and first heard Walk on the Wild Side on the radio. It is a strange quirk of history that in a much more conservative era, when many things that are normal today could not be played on radio, that mainstream daytime radio made a hit out of a song about the strange and lovely people at the Warhol Factory with a line about giving head.”
“Upon hearing Walk on the Wild Side and deciding to save pocket money to buy that album, I read in a mag that it was produced by David Bowie and that Mick Ronson played guitar on it. By that stage Perfect Day was also being played on radio I could hear Bowie's voice and Ronson's piano style. I then read that Lou Reed had been in the Velvet Underground and their records were still available. It was a few years until I finally got my hands on the first Velvets' album and subsequently on Loaded. By that time Rock'n'Roll Animal, Sally Can't Dance were in my vinyl collection and I saw Lou in concert a few years after that. I was gutted that he didn't come to Perth on his first Australian tour.”
So much rock history drips from Dear’s words and the description of how he discovered the music of Reed and the Velvet Underground in the days before the Internet is fascinating. It certainly was a different era, but the music still endures. There would be few people who haven’t heard a Lou Reed song, even if they couldn't name the artist, they could at least sing along. There’s also the enduring influence that Reed and his first band, The Velvet Underground, still have on artists to this day. Without The Velvet’s there would have been no Television, no Ramones, no Strokes, no Parquet Courts, to name just a few. The reach of Reed’s influence on music is massive.
Dear takes up the narrative. “Everyone in music understands his importance, but I'm not sure that other people do. His vision was to bring into rock music the artistic ideals and content areas that permeate novels, plays, and great films. More than any other song writer who strove for similar ideals, Lou pulled it off. There were low points, not every album is as great as others, but even in those low points there was something to be admired and to learn from. Any songwriter who doesn't study Lou's work is going to miss being as good as he or she can be. There is no option in my mind, but to celebrate his legacy. Besides all of that, the Berlin album is a masterpiece that should be performed from time to time just as a great play is reworked and performed again and again by many companies.”
In a market awash with tributes (most of them top notch), what Dear is attempting is more than just a skilful rendition of an artist’s songs or albums. He wants to invoke Reed's influence not only on contemporary music, but on contemporary arts and culture as well.
If that all sounds a bit high falutin’ for you, rest easy. Dear has assembled a crack band that will deliver the goods and then some. This is going to be a celebration of Reed’s work driven by stonking good music. The art is in the curation of the tracks the band will play and the selection of Reed’s Berlin album as the centrepiece of this three-set event. What it all means is up to the punters to decide, that’s what art is all about, but having a good time and engaging with music that you love is the absolute least you will take away from this event.
Lead vocals, guitar Greg Dear
Lead guitar Jaime Page (Dark Universe)
Bass Sara McPherson (New Talk, Bells Rapids)
Drums Malcolm Clark (Sleepy Jackson, Empire of the Sun).
Piano Mark Ralph (Lee Sapho’s Love Thugs)
Keyboards Hurb Jephasun (Polite Society, Beautiful Losers)
Sax/flute Thea Woodward (Tommyhawks)
Baritone sax Damian Denyer (Limelights, Rusty Pinto)
Trumpet Elliot Brannen (6s and 7s)
Trombone Peter Yuncken (Community Chest, King Cornelius)
Backing Vocals Addison Axe (Axe Girl, Tommyhawks)
Backing Vocals Damien Goerke(Damien and the Dead Band)
The Lou Reed Celebration Show takes place at Badlands Bar on Saturday 27 October.
For more information visit the Badlands website or the Facebook event.
Tickets are available via Eventbrite or at the door on the night, if available.
More about Greg Dear
Greg Dear is a local muso who has been playing in bands since the late 70s, but was most prominent in Perth across the 80s and early 90s. In Greg's words: "I've never called myself a singer. I'm a vocalist in the tradition of people like Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. I can hold a note, but I prefer to let my lyrics speak, and if the best way to communicate a song is to mumble, or talk, or scream, then I do that." Greg's voice has often been likened to that of Lou Reed. However, Greg sees it differently: "I sometimes catch myself sounding a bit like Lou and I try to stop it. I think the resemblance is that my style has been influenced by Lou and by people like Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan - not just my writing, but how I deliver the songs. I'm not a good singer, but I can communicate a lyric, or at least I try to." At rehearsals I'm not consciously trying to impersonate Lou, but I have listened to those songs for so many years that I do find myself capable of sounding like Lou without tripping over the line into cabaret impersonator."