Laurie & Friends at BAM’s Next Stage Benefit by Lena Valencia

Lena Valencia reflects on a Laurie Anderson performance that included everything from news anchors to gospel.

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Laurie Anderson. Photo by Clifford Ross.

Laurie Anderson has some pretty cool friends. Her lineup on Wednesday night didn’t cater to any one scene or genre, but instead pulled together a number of talented, eclectic acts, creating a spirit of experimentation and freshness that wasn’t always comfortable but definitely made for a good show. Like a party where the guests are strangers with little in common, things were a bit awkward for the first half. Anderson opened the show with a short violin piece, after which Bree Benton entertained with some anachronistic yet infectious vaudeville ditties about springtime. Sarah Michelson gave us a sneak peak of Rebecca, a dance piece going up this summer at the Kitchen in June. The Dirty Projectors’ complex vocal arrangements made up for their lack of instrumentation: Dave Longstreth held a lone electric guitar and warbled as his two female band mates tried to out-sing each other. Pitchfork favorite Brightblack Morning Light’s music sounds like what you would hear if you stood on a hill high above a jam-band festival (which is just as close as I’d like to get). Awesomely named frontman Naybob Shineywater wandered around the stage crooning muffled noises, lazily dangling his guitar in one hand and holding the mic with the other for the first number while his band grooved behind him. I thought it was funny; other audience members were not so charmed and walked out.

Finally Laurie reemerged and the show began to gain momentum: as she performed a recent composition about the Hudson River plane crash, her voice changed from Laurie into something that sounded like a male news anchor, and later the spoken word became call-and-response improv aided by members of the gospel choir, James Hall Worship and Praise. Arturo O’Farrill and his jazz band got everyone tapping their feet. Nona Hendryx of Labelle came out dressed as a space age robot angel and did her own brand of R&B-ish improvisation with JHWP (some of whom seemed a little confused). Lastly, James Hall of James Hall Worship and Praise shouted out to the crowd “WHO LOVES THE LORD?” (the crowd responded with a weak “Yeahh…”) and proceeded to play some electrifying gospel music. I don’t even regret missing LOST.

Lena Valencia is Associate Web Editor of BOMB.

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