What Laurie Anderson Lost in the Flood

Groundbreaking performance art, multimedia immersion, musical artistry, electronic immersion. All things Ms. Anderson has projected to -- and intrigued audiences with -- for 40 years plus.

So I knew this was a concert I wasn’t going to miss, in spite of the house having been sold out by the time I got wind of the event. Incredibly, I scored a couple of tix on the phone with the box office an hour before the performance, in spite of a waiting list that included a line of live, disappointed fans outside of the theater at show time, when I arrived.

Laurie has always combined video with prerecorded tracks, live electric violin performance and plugins that add layers of overdubs, repeating echoes and vocal pitch alteration in real time. So she can set up a looping motif, then narrate it as a nasally sounding old man with a few swipes, which she did during one piece.

Well and good, all in support of her latest album Things I Lost in the Flood, which is less esoteric than one might surmise, once she explains about all her stuff getting ruined and floating away on the Jersey Shore, back a few years during Hurricane Sandy.

Most intriguing moment: her explaining how losing these valuable physical objects increased her appreciation of having owned them by bringing their memory to a sharper focus without the burden of further care. But that’s where it got a bit dicey: caring about much else.

At age 70, she appeared relaxed but tired. She stepped to the mic, opened a loose leaf on a music stand and began reading the script of the show from it, staying in that book or traveling around the stage with pages, for the majority of the time. Which was both logical and shocking. If you can’t memorize your show, what better way to avoid forgetting big dollops of it, but is that what we want to see?

I feel for her. My upcoming show is about 5000 words and I’m having a time, getting it down, so I don’t have to keep my head in just such a book. But I also want to be free of that constraint, so I can relate, stay fluid and mobile and feel good about the performance.

Ms. A tipped her hand at one point, reminding us she never felt comfortable starting or stopping a story – which is why she never scheduled intermissions – they just added more stress. And once she found her gait, she delivered what sounded very much like an enormous run-on sentence for the 90 minute show.

Most troubling was the feeling she imparted of this being a summation, as if this was it and here are some highlights from the past but please don’t make me work to long or hard on this stuff, because, well, I’ve done all of that and you probably know that material and honestly, is that what you’re here to… hear?

Disappointment and respect for a career run exactly the way she chose to present it. What a lucky girl.


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