Laurie (a.k.a. the new Mrs Reed) is in town right now. I know this because I've seen her Homeland show both the last two evenings. (For the next few days, you can hear her talking about it Woman's Hour and 6 Music.) It's a bit of mixed bag, to be honest. When Lucy and I went on Wednesday evening, I fell asleep about two thirds of the way through — I've been doing that a lot recently at seated gigs! — and when I saw the show again from the second row last night, I found that the bits I'd missed were entirely missable.
Sometimes Laurie Anderson does the spoken word anecdotes and sometimes she does singing. (Having said that, the current show is an amalgam of both.) The songs can work well on record, but in performance I generally prefer the stories. Note enough of the stories have made it onto recordings, but The Ugly One with the Jewels is a welcome exception to this. As a live album, it's way better than Home of the Brave. Apparently it was recorded at Sadlers Wells in London, but no one told me about this show, or I'd have been there.
Just after this album came out, Caroline and I went to see Laurie at the Manchester Apollo. She told a longer version of a story that centres on the question, "are things getting better, or are they getting worse?" from Same Time Tomorrow. In the story, she was sent to interview John Cage, and really wanted to ask him that question, but felt it was too… crude a question to put to someone like Cage. But he sensed her discomfort, and put her benignly on the spot: "just what is it you really want to know?" So she asked the question, and he beamed, "Oh, things are getting better, much better."
Judging by Homeland, Laurie is not convinced. She reminded us of the old films where someone would burst into the saloon, all agitated, and yell, "there's trouble at the mine!" Whereupon everyone would stop what they were doing: drinkers would halt the arc of glass to mouth, barmen would stop polishing glasses, and everyone would rush out through the swing doors to head down to the mine. Lights go down in the Barbican Theatre and Laurie Anderson looks out at all of us. "There's trouble at the mine!" she wails. "There's trouble at the mine!" Each time more desperate. "There's trouble at the mine!"
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