Laurie Anderson delivers kooky electronica with a little help from classical music’s ‘Fab Four’

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The multi-talented electronica musician Laurie Anderson is renowned for bringing performance art to the mainstream and popular culture to the avant garde, so when it comes to international arts festivals, the woman fits right in. Add to her already larger-than-life, esoteric persona, four musicians of the classical-goes-experimental kind in the form of the Kronos Quartet, and the audience could only expect strange results.

At last night’s performance of Landfall – a series of original scores by Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet – in the fairly conservative surrounds of the Perth Concert Hall, it seemed some of the stranger elements of the show moved several audience members to the edge of their seats; some even seen squirming. There were moments when Anderson’s own invention of an instrument – the tape-bow violin, which utilises recorded magnetic tape in the bow instead of the usual horsehair – seemed to compete too strongly with the Kronos players’ somewhat more traditional instruments.

There was also much use of another of Anderson’s inventions – the talking stick – which transforms her voice from saccharinely sarcastic to brooding, masculine and ever-more deadpan.

This was an innovative performance where synthesisers and string instruments interweaved with one another, occasionally verging on cacophony, but it was Anderson’s spoken word delivery of personal tales that truly captured the crowd. She spoke in equally ironic manner but with matter-of-fact gestures about having been caught in the recent great hurricane of New York, and of backward discoveries in far-out villages of the developing world. All the while, random words – and often full profound sentences – would flash up on a massive screen behind her, for the most part peppered with deconstructed typography that looked as though a kind of virus had infected her power-point display. Indeed, Anderson’s most famous credo, that Language Is A Virus, was taken to a new level.

It is a principle the artist has always injected into her performances, on both the aural level and the visual front. Sadly, though, fans expecting to hear familiar songs such as O Superman, Born But Never Asked or Strange Angels, didn’t have those wishes fulfilled.

Instrumentation by classical music’s answer to the Fab Four married with Laurie Anderson’s own discography? Now that’s a show we’d love to hear and see next time.


Photograph by Kevin Kennfick.