After almost 40 years, Lou Reed still can't decide whether he wants to be a rock star or an art star. His music has always relied on his status as an "artist," and his art leans heavily on his cred as a musician. The downside of this conflict is well documented in this two-hour live concert, recorded at L.A.'s Wiltern Theater last June.
Though Reed hobbles through some lesser-known material from early in his career, he draws heavily from his less accessible work (including the John Cale collaboration Songs for Drella and 2003's The Raven). The album's stripped-down arrangements are lethargic and uninspired, and between-song banter shows Reed trying to prop up his own legacy by reminding the crowd of how good he and his band are, and the significance of the music they're performing. Animal Serenade offers little more than proof that Reed is in the twilight of his career. The ferocity, danger, and prowess are gone. Listening leaves you to wonder whether this beast has merely grown long in the tooth -- or is toothless altogether.