Let Me Entertain You: Laurie Anderson @ World Cafe Live 7.11 & 7.12.10
Concerts are for improvisation, jamming and vacations from the real world. Laurie Anderson doesn’t do concerts. Her performances are art exhibitions, intricately constructed to intrigue, inspire and, yes, entertain. Over two nights at World Café Live, she and her Homeland Trio presented “Another Day In America,” an hour’s worth of music from her incredible new album, Homeland. Each night was essentially identical, though it was the precision of the twin performances that added another level of reverence-inducing admiration to the audiences’ already overwhelmed sense of awe. With keyboardist Rob Burger (who played on Homeland) and bassist Bill Laswell (who didn’t, but has played with just about everyone else), Anderson’s two-night residency was a captivating and mesmerizing display.
Each night featured the same setlist which began, appropriately enough, with “The Beginning Of Memory.” This retelling of a millennia-old short story set the stage for the thought-provoking examinations of modern life that would follow. Blocks of pieces were strung together with synthesized clangs, ambient noise or sampled Tuvan throat singers. “The Beginning Of Memory” led into Homeland’s own opener, “Transitory Life,” which was followed by the undisputed standout, “Only An Expert.” As was expected by close listeners to the album’s incarnation of the tune, Anderson included a verse about the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill, which began just two months before Homenland’s release (and, ostensibly, long after “Only An Expert” had been recorded). The biting remarks on bailouts, global warming and torture remained unfortunately resonant alongside the newly-added disaster.
Around this time, Anderson’s alter ego, Fenway Bergamot (formerly known as The Voice Of Authority), made his first appearance. His breathy bellow sauntered through a piece not found on the album, “Mambo And Bling.” The narration concludes with a rather unnerving refrain of “There’s trouble! Out at the mine,” to which audience members responded by sitting bewildered, motionless. It was the night’s most confrontational moment, suggesting that we as a people have grown so jaded and selfish that we would simply ignore a public plea for help. Of course, this was all in the name of commentary, and the more delicate pieces soon followed. “The Lake” and “Falling” remain two of Anderson’s most gorgeous recent compositions, and an abridged version of “Dark Time In The Revolution” brought back the groove for one more round.
Concluding each show was “Flow,” the fragile instrumental that likewise closes Homeland. It was an unusual (but no doubt lovely) end to a most unusual (but no doubt unforgettable) show. If Homeland is Anderson’s masterpiece of her recent career, then the Another Day In America tour is a highlight of her legacy as a live performer. Anderson is already performing in other projects while touring with this one, and even a mere hour with this restless creative is an experience that is sure to thrill.
Click the picture at the top of this post to see more pictures of Laurie Anderson in concert!!