Sax in the City was out and about last night, trekking with good pals Susan Wilber and Sarah Frazier to the Harvey Theater last night to see Laurie Anderson perform Delusion as part of the Brooklyn Art Museum’s 2010 Next Wave Festival. “What are the last words you say before you turn to dirt?” Anderson intoned during the hour-and-a-half-long meditation on life and language that was originally commissioned by the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and the Barbican Bite 10 Festival in London.
In her Brooklyn incarnation of the production, Anderson held sway over the audience with her hypnotic voice; explosive visual effects; emotionally charged content and sometimes volatile, sometimes haunting music. The petite performer shepherded everyone through a jostling journey that extended from Kierkegaard’s premise that life is more interesting lived backward to a riff on how women can always get away with playing the “crying card”; something we are due, she remarked, because we are constantly losing our last names. “Marriage, divorce, marriage,” she chanted, noting how the lost last name that once established our identities becomes the ubiquitous password. “When men pull out the crying card, it’s [pause] awkward!” she crooned.
There was an archetypal resonance to the material: “What happens when a man outlives his god?” she asks; and the performance was littered with death. “They say you die three times,” she parries at one point: “when your heart stops; when you’re buried or cremated; and the last time someone says your name.” There were tears in the audience as she careened toward the end of the performance, her last entreaty a question for her mother: “Did you ever really love me?” The visual effects were stunning—dwarfing her as she moved about the stage segueing from voice to violin back to voice. I’ve been a fan of hers since the 1980s and still listen to her album “Strange Angels” so it was a blessing to see her perform in person.