The stage set was really minimal, flickering candles surrounding a single chair, her keyboards and pedals, viola, the one small projection screen on which hovered a luminous shot of the moon’s surface. The audience was hushed, waiting for her to begin her stories. I had brought my entire family and was curious to see how each person would take away something different. Anne, age 6, thought it was the funniest when she attached a small camera to her viola bow, and you could see it sawing back and forth over the surface of the instrument that suddenly looked more like something out of Star Wars, and when she turned the camera upside down and kind of floated past the window like an astronaut asking, “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”. Margaret, age 11, thought it was pretty cool that Laurie Anderson got to stay and see all the spaceships as part of being the first Artist-In-Residence for the Space Program, and learned about the artistry involved in the color selection made to illustrate the stars and galaxies. “Are those the actual colors?” “No, not exactly”. “Then how did you pick them?” “We thought people would, well, like them.” In another section she seemed to be recalling a long relationship, and its difficulties. “The tear in my right eye is because I love you. The tear in my left eye is because I can’t bear you”. The concert duet with the owl, whose melody floated over in the mix, thinking it was one of her fellow musicians, then when everyone stopped playing still hearing it, letting her self keep going quietly listening and singing with the owl. “OK, I can die now” she says. Don, age 40, saw a return to Big Science, and spoken word, and was impressed by her intelligence. He found himself immersed in the technical aspects of her performance, rythmic sequences, quirky & offbeat, melodic, watching a one woman orchestra. Her little dog learning it was prey, that there were 360 degrees in the area of responsibility, that attack could come from above. And patriotism, questioning the “super sized American Flag” like some fast food knock off. I was glad that I could only photograph for the first 10 minutes so I could sit and enjoy the show. I had just bought Mister Heartbreak again on CD. Seeing her live for the first time I realized that her stories and her music still resonated — curiously challenging, atmospheric and vital.
- Justine Avera