Last night, I was fortunate to see Laurie Anderson perform for the first time at Oz in one of the most meaningful, wondrous performances of my lifetime. “The Language of the Future” is a continuous joy, beginning and ending with Anderson and her trademark electric violin, the sound of which tears though the air with surprising melodies and deep, earth rocking tones. Her voice is like that of a sorceress and a horror tale and a mother reading a storybook to her children, at once haunting and reassuring. What I didn’t know going in was that Anderson is hilarious and a dynamite storyteller. She told tale after tale from her life: breaking her back as a child, going on a silent canoeing retreat only to be stuck with a group of nature-loving incest survivors, taking a job at MacDonald’s in Chinatown, hitchhiking to the North Pole, hiking with her dog Lolabelle. One after another the stories come, laced with satire and uncanny observations. But these aren’t the stories typically heard today on The Moth or This American Life; you know the ones, with the big lesson learned tied up in a bow at the end. Anderson’s stories are quick and dark and funny, and the meaning is there, but it comes out in the performance, the voice, the reverberations of her synth, her piercing blue eyes. Alone on a dark stage surrounded by dozens of tea lights, Anderson is like a messenger from the future, here to tell us about our time. She reveals much of herself in the performance but more about America, ourselves, and the stories we all tell.
Anderson is performing a second show tonight at Oz Arts Nashville. Tickets are $57.50, a bargain for the quality of the show and the experience of witnessing this legendary artist. If you’re unfamiliar with Anderson, read about her in this week’s Scene.