Laurie Anderson

My kind-of review of last night’s Laurie Anderson performance in Seattle.

I saw Laurie Anderson last night here in Seattle. She continues to be an excellent performer, but something has changed in the way that I relate to her as I get older. I first discovered her when I was 16 and I checked out her United States 1-5 on vinyl from the library where I worked (hint on my actual age here). It blew me away. She became, and remains, one of my heroes. Her observations were revelatory to a suburban teenager in Reagan’s America with aspirations toward the avant-garde.

Her new piece, “The End of the Moon” deals with her time as NASA’s first (and last) artist in residence. While much of it was engaging, when she would wander off into deep-sounding non-sequiturs I caught myself wondering if she was actually trying to say something or if she was in sort of automatic art mode. I never noticed this in her work before. I’m not sure if she was just filling space in the piece or was actually going somewhere and just lost me on the way.

More interesting to me was how her music has progressed. I’ve always admired the sound beds she creates that form the backdrop of her more introspective music and her narratives, but a lot of her music didn’t thrill me. Last night, I was a lot more impressed by her music than her words for the first time. She has been playing violin for decades, but last night was the first performance of hers where I actually felt her virtuosity on the instrument. It could be that technology has finally caught up to her vision, but her extended music solo music pieces (with computer accompaniment) were amazing. It really inspired me to re-think my own extended playing techniques.

I don’t know if she’s picking up new audiences anymore. We were definitely on the younger side of the audience age range, which is saying something. It’s too bad, because while some of her new work is a bit too much like some of her old work, the rest is really worth exposure to some new minds.

Posted: Tue – November 9, 2004 at 11:20 AM

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