Laurie Anderson at Walker Art Center, 11/2/12

Laurie Anderson at Walker Art Center, 11/2/12

Laurie Anderson performs Dirtday!
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Friday, November 2, 2012

I've always felt music is the best when it's performed live. Typically the best musicians are also great storytellers. Thus it was a double dose and once again a special ephemeral moment that Laurie Anderson shared for three sold out nights performing her latest work, Dirtday! at the Walker Art Center this weekend.

With only minimal electronic gear, a chair, elegant glowing votives tossed about the stage and her violin, Anderson delivered a stream of consciousness reflection of her mind, inner self and experiences that incite her outlook. As masterful as she was with the electronic violin, she was equally at galloping about topics that push and pull the audience's cerebral buttons all the while very subtly tugging on our hearts.

Immediately, with the first dirging movements of the piece, a flurry of low bowed sound, electronic beats and rhythms became mixed with pointilist electric trigger effects that allowed Anderson to provide her own accompaniment.

In her standard black tie, black pants and bedhead stairing into the audience she at first spoke a bit vacuously, "I read a book about evolution."

Pouncing on topics that are always on people's minds in a political season Anderson didn't hold back. In a roundabout way, enveloping attendees' thoughts, she illustrated current state of affairs, issues on Wall Street, "It's buying and selling futures. Things that don't exist yet. The world keeps the market spinning."

"This place that once used to be a country is really a battleground." she slowly breathed with violin arpegiations that progressed and were greeted with escalating helicopter noises.

Things stayed smooth and steady with pulsing tones and gleaming solid visual colors as she struck straight to the heart with the story about her dog, Lolabelle. Raising a mix of religious thoughts about Lolabelle's recent passing Anderson cleverly seemed to combine favorable beliefs in finding the benefit of her sorrow, "She lives forever actually if you Google her."

Calling her out visually on display Lollabelle appeared on an empty screen and dazzled her skills with an electric keyboard she no doubt learned to play from her mother.

"Animals are like people. They approach death then they walk away. But animals taught me more about love than humans," she reflected.

Trading light-hearted moments for sometimes scarier sounds that added a bit of anxiety as Anderson utilized voice modulators and even demonstrated one of her personal dreams to come true, the ability to make her voice sound like a violin. Placing a speaker device made for language instruction in her mouth Anderson formed the sounds with her lips and tongue to generate a similar wash of long notes and desperate melodies that made something in essence very mechanical sound naturally human.


It is a rare artist that can transcend their personal life and world view, carrying an audience through the strains of the heart the way Laurie Anderson has spent a lifetime doing. Having harnessed her own style and medium that's become a trademark of the form in which she works she continues to expand her own body of work. While the world seems to constantly spin out of control it is time spent in her performances that seems to slow down, allowing the audience to take another questioning though ultimately heartwarming look.

Critic's Bias: Very much enjoyed seeing Laurie perform at the Walker 10 years ago for the first part of her trilogy, Happiness. Anderson brilliantly picked up on the human condition and her experience where she last left off.

The Crowd: Nice-looking crowd often wearing turtleneck sweaters.

Overheard in the Crowd: Chatting with my friend, Jake Rudh the next day he was still wrapping his head around the performance: "She literally brought me to another place mentally for 90 minutes. 18 hours later I'm still trying to figure out where it brought me...but wherever it is, I love it!"

Random Notebook Dump: I wonder how she does the whole set without ever taking a sip of water?

Laurie Anderson at Walker Art Center, 11/2/12
signed Laurie Anderson concert poster courtesy of Jake Rudh

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