Laurie Anderson’s new show – currently on its European tour – is full of meteorological precipitation. The multimedia backdrop, designed by the artist, features various kinds of downfall or condensation, though not infrequently the quiet lightness of snow. This is a theme that reaches back to her previous projects such as her 2021-22 Smithsonian exhibition The Weather, and also her 2015 project Heart of a Dog. Having refracted different kinds of loss – both personal and pertaining to the planet – the artist is now also layering into her live performance some mindful serenity and the characteristic pearls of wisdom about the purpose of night, the angelic provenance of artificial intelligence, and the role of storytelling at the end of the world.

In many ways, Let x=x, a show performed with the avant-garde jazz band Sexmob, is also an attempt at defying gravity, resisting the pull, reverting the downward fall. All seemingly aged 55 and above, the musicians have a variety of genres up their sleeves – they support Anderson’s dreamlike futuristic scores and virtuosic solos with copious grace, but they are also able to rock like the best of the 20th century all over again. On a narrative level, there is a striking story at the show’s climax from the artist’s childhood about trying to pull her siblings out of a frozen lake. Having slept on it, I still cannot decide if this was a true story, a dream, or a parable, but it is one of those I will never forget. Not least because it is delivered with a lightness of touch and true drama that never veers into sentimentality.

As is usual in Anderson’s work – and we do get back all the way to her chart-topping 1981 classic ‘Oh Superman’ – technology, cryptologists and different kinds of experts are all exposed to playful scrutiny. Personal heroes, family members, and friends from the world of Performance Art are lovingly invoked and even honoured with an occasional song number (‘It’s not the bullet that kills you Chris [Burden], it’s the hole’), but it is the audience that ultimately gets the special treatment. Beguiled and elevated all the way through, we begin by being invited, via Yoko Ono, to indulge in a ten second scream on the topic of our choice, and we end by willingly participating a tai chi session in honour of Lou Reed. It is an event at a concert hall certainly like no other that will leave you buoyed and refreshed like a spell of summer rain, and maybe just a little thoughtful about the state of the world.

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This post was written by Duška Radosavljević.

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