Last weekend, Laurie Anderson performed "Delusion" at Pace University in lower Manhattan for the final time. The piece is an audio-visual tapestry, weaving together 20 short stories and vignettes ranging from her mother's death to Russia's 150-year old space program.
Anderson's work has always been more theater than music, despite the popularity of some of her more melodic hits ("O Superman"). "Delusion" is mostly spoken word accompanied by an electronic violin that she designed herself. Anderson's unique instruments have become one of the trademarks of the experience that is a Laurie Anderson performance. Another part of what makes her so amazingly stramge is the distortion she sometimes applied to her voice, transforming her temporarily into the male villain in a scary movie.
Against a backdrop of several screens onto which a series of images was projected, ranging from an animated chalk board to red and yellow leaves dancing in the autumn wind, to the surface of Mars, Anderson jumped from one story to the next, weaving together an exploration into the way we talk about our lives, our families and the world while navigating the lines that separate fact from myth.
Throughout the hour-and-a-half long performance Anderson switched between standing behind podium behind and sitting on a love-seat onto which the images were projected. The experience was draining, both mentally and physically, as the audience followed Anderson's monotone voice and jumped from one story to the next.
Some sections were deeply sad, while others filled the theater with laughter. In one vignette, Anderson began by explaining the difference between man and woman. When everything goes wrong women have one option men do not: crying. However, women have a good reason to cry, Anderson explained: their last names, unlike those of men that are passed down from generation to generation, are often lost and forgotten by time. Even worse: in today's modern world, maiden names have been relegated to the use of passwords to verify your accounts on websites, equal to your pet's name or your first school.
As the show ended, Anderson left the stage to thunderous applause, only to return a moment later for one short piece, an electronic violin solo that blew away the rest the performance with its simplistic beauty. (See below for an excerpt from her 2010 BAM performance.)