Anderson ex machina
Rock star appears in Birmingham beneath Mothership-lookalike. Boy, can she summon up hi-tech heaven
Friday 02 June 1995
After the PA's sudden oomph when the show was switched on, three big screens rolled into place to receive digitally tweaked images of a burning book, shimmering below the Mothership-lookalike of the hall's acoustic baffles. Anderson, dressed - you guessed it - all in black, entered to choreograph the music through sensitive touches of a keyboard and brutal strokes of her screaming violin, speaking in that beautifully rounded voice about time, her father, history and travel. Her opening discourse supplied us with abundant footnotes: Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Don DeLillo and John Cage, though none of them made much sense. She's been to Tibet and nearly died, she told us, she's been to the North Pole and also lived in a Mayan yurt; she's seen the lights of the Gulf War. If being Laurie Anderson is a bit like starring in a top-dollar travelogue, you couldn't begrudge your acceptance for long before the video projections took your breath away.
Less William Burroughs than folksy Thornton Wilder, Anderson clearly has a mission to communicate, but what she actually says often seems curiously mundane. "Sometimes when you hear a scream," she says, pausing for the maximum effect, "it goes right in one ear and out the other." And much of it did, so that you were left cursing her portentous delivery while marvelling at the exquisitely timed imagery with which such banal pensees were accompanied. Pascal, one feels, she ain't; but boy can she summon up hi-tech heaven. The sound was superb, and even the voice of Lou Reed (present digitally, if not in person) came across loud and clear. Anderson also played guitar, with a Chris Isaak tremolo effect miraculously transforming her apprentice axe-attempts into something wondrous (thanks, man in white coat).
The high-point occurred when she wasn't even on stage, a collage of Internet codes scrolling across the screens like the alphabet of the gods. She returned to receive the first applause of the evening (we were all too scared of upsetting the computer to clap between numbers) and bowed graciously as the credits rolled behind her; "written and directed by Laurie Anderson". The tracking was pretty good, too. Now, if only we could give this technology to four disaffected drug abusers with guitars...
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 2 Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
- 3 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 4 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
- 5 Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage