Bear with me a moment.
I went to see Antony and the Johnsons the first time, at the Knitting Factory in Tribeca, because Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were working with him and pumping Antony and his band up. It was a fantastic show and I immediately sent off for his first album.
This isn’t about Antony, so I’ll just say that I quickly became a fan. Coincidentally, so did my friends Jane and Pete, so when the Johnsons played Bowery Ballroom some time later we went. And when tickets were some time later again went on sale for a show at Carnegie Hall Pete was at the front of the line. A group of us, about eight or so, ended up in the seventh row middle. The seats were so good that David Bowie was in our row, and Lou and Laurie were sitting a few rows behind. When Bowie showed up Lou greeted him and they kissed on the lips. It was lovely.
The opening band was the McCulloch Sons of Thunder, a trombone band from a school in Harlem that played raucous praise music. The second performer was the incredibly frail at that point contralto Little Jimmy Scott, who was wonderful, a walking bit of history still with great instincts. And then Antony and the Johnsons played songs from the great first album and the most excellent second album, which features a photo of Candy Darling on the cover.
All of this prelude leads to this. For an encore, the ultimate one I think, Lou Reed took the stage wearing leather pants and a leather jacket. He looked lean and taut, yet way craggy, and the band played Candy Says, Lou’s great song about Candy Darling from The Velvet Underground’s eponymous elpee. Lou turned his back to the audience and played an extended solo that started simple and pretty and built into something hard and coruscating. Watching his posture and his arms and his legs but not his fingers, watching him facing Antony, who makes such pretty and heartbreaking music, watching him building this overpowering guitar solo seemingly by force of will alone, was an act of love, a sharing of the power of music and grief and the incredible obligation and opportunity that is the act of living. It was a moment of grandeur and pure passion that is perhaps unmatched in my life lived with art.
This clip of the two performing the song is from a different more casual show, and significantly lacks the guitar solo. But it is a lovely piece that comes together at the end and Lou demonstrates that same power of love, in a much simpler way.