Laurie Anderson, Southbank Meltdown Festival

I am certainly not an authority on Laurie Anderson and experiencing the rapturous appreciation and applause in the spooky candle lit Royal Festival Hall at the end of her concert, I realised I was surrounded by fans who really know and understand a lot more about this eccentric performance artist than I do.

Performance art can be difficult to grasp and enjoy and yet with Laurie Anderson I felt swept up into her world of magical sounds and was mesmerised by her fluid and imaginative show. Performing as part of the Southbank’s Meltdown Festival in a one off performance, it felt truly special to be witnessing her presence and creativity. Anderson is an American experimental artist and a pioneer in electronic music, often creating her own devices to develop certain techniques and noises. She is most famous for her 1981 track ‘O Superman’ which reached number 2 in the UK pop charts.

Anderson’s show at Southbank, entitled Dirtday! was weird and wonderful from start to finish. Stationed predominantly centre stage behind her desk of equipment, she singlehandedly creates and manipulates a massive sound world. She plays an electric violin and speaks clinically into an often distorting microphone… at times it is scary and odd, occasionally joyful and passionate but always captivating.

She refers to numerous controversial themes, America’s healthcare, Darwin, the Catholic Church are the most memorable for me post show. Stories take on a vivid form through her music, and the moody lighting and visuals help to conjure an ethereal atmosphere.

Laurie’s late dog Lolabelle has a short slot in the show…Laurie’s beloved pet is shown in YouTube videos playing the piano while Laurie commentates on the animal’s difficult and inspiring death process.

There is no interval in Dirtday – a decision which made complete sense to me: Anderson’s audience are enveloped entirely by the world of this most important of performance artists. I felt I experienced a rare and special show in an evening that is impossible to forget.

Visit the Laurie Anderson website here.

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