Blogs The Green Room Danny Sigelman

Laurie Anderson at the Fitzgerald Theater: Danny Sigelman on The Language of the Future

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on Laurie […]

© Laurie Anderson

Photo: © Laurie Anderson

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on Laurie Anderson’s The Language of the Future. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

Laurie Anderson has had a long history of performing in the Twin Cities, dating back to 1978 when she first performed at the Walker Art Center.

Having seen her last two performances, Happiness in 2002, and Dirtday! in 2012, it was a welcome chance to hop across the river for Anderson’s always warm and calm ways of storytelling. Her ever-evolving The Language of the Future at the Fitzgerald Theater on Saturday night was another grand opportunity to witness her enlightened masterstrokes of firsthand narrative. Amidst a pulsating resonance of sound that envelops the atmosphere, Anderson places you within a womb of sorts. Allowing your mind to settle, it’s always emotionally moving, simultaneously thought-provoking and humorous.

The audience was welcomed into the Fitz by the faint sounds of birds. Unassuming electronic chirps emanated about, priming the canvas for her stories to unfold for the evening.

In dim light, Anderson approached her station of electronic devices. Pulling out her violin, she conjured up a wash of low, sweeping phrases, further developing space and mood. Subtle fog seemed to fill the air, complementing the visuals of a cityscape behind her.

Anderson eased into what would become a recurring theme of The Language of the Future: her experience as a teenager writing letters to John F. Kennedy about his presidential campaign. Looking for advice from the then-Senator for her campaign for class president, she would begin a correspondence with him that resulted in Kennedy sending Anderson a dozen roses upon her own victory.

Commenting on elections and the process, Anderson pulled the curtain away, concluding with how we inevitably vote for whomever’s story we like best. It was a fitting introduction for the audience who were immediately brought to a personal place from the artist.

Transitioning, Anderson mixed together more synth keyboards and effect washes creating loops of sound. With a heavy echoing violin she plucked staccato patterns, rounding out more electronic blips.

She stayed with her childhood for another story about a failed attempt at flipping into a pool and landing on her back on the concrete and consequently into a children’s hospital. Allowing for reflections on death among her descriptions of the other patients she remembered, she effectively dug into the emotional core of the performance. She eventually reached a comforting resolution for the audience to “always hold onto your story.”

A winter scene of slowly falling snow was soundtracked by desolate sounds with Anderson accompanying her own playing on the violin, creating sparse and deliberate harmonics. Next began a fluctuating series of strummed atmosphere that greeted images of the moon landing and Anderson’s impressions on the ideas of competition in society, the Cuban missile crisis, and and past societal obsessions with the possibility of World War 3.

A story about meeting the Prince of Bali and watching his father’s cremation ceremony on video fed further incantations about death and the afterlife. Woven beautifully together with images of trees and flight, Anderson provided comfort for the listeners, viewing from the position of a bird as she connected the theme of reincarnation.

Advancing to the present, she seemed to be improvising a piece about modern advancements in communication. Describing Google Glass and some software she created to turn her words into other words, the audience was taken on a brain-melting ride as seemingly random words danced across the screen. Observations on the complex day-to-day multitasking of smartphones and ordering basic items on the internet, Anderson brought laughs on how adults and children’s communication devolves into that “like cavemen”.

Returning to the idea of correspondence with a presidential candidate, her low, modulated voice spoke to current affairs: “Dear Donald Trump, this time of misunderstanding and for profit government […]” She continued with parallels to her past advice from Kennedy and attached his concept of “figuring out what they want and promising it” to sobering effect.

Throughout the performance I couldn’t help but marvel at the flowing of words and the way Anderson creates a stew of sounds with the various devices she employs. Though mostly obscured, her fingers gleefully dance about her keyboard, tablet computer, and laptop all the while reaching for more organic sounds from her electric violin.

Dotting the sonic palette with so many words and stories in various auditorial styles, it’s the time with Laurie Anderson that always strengthens the personal bond you feel with her work after listening to her, entranced in a dream-like state. She creates the deep connection with all these machines and her own mind, taking you for a ride within your own heart and mind.

And then before you know it, the lights and her machines go dark and she’s gone.

OOIOO and Sumunar at the McGuire Theater

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on OOIOO last […]

OOIOO. Photo: Gene Pittman

OOIOO. Photo: Gene Pittman

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on OOIOO last night. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

The McGuire Theater hosted two amazing performances last night.

Quite different from visiting artists OOIOO, the Twin Cities-rooted Gamelan ensemble Sumunar kicked the evening off with a very traditional style under the direction of Javanese musician Joko Sutrisno.

Humbly introducing each piece, Sutrisno lead Sumunar through a handful of tunes. With his 7 person group scattered about the stage, festooned by Gamelan instruments including bells, xylophones, delicately hanging gongs, Sutrisno set the tone with a short vocal intro while playing his set of hand drums to establish a rhythm.

While the various mallets systematically danced about the bells they provided a depth of alternating, subtle melodies which became accented by stark rhythms, shifting in tone. Gradually Sutrisno picked up the tempo for a climax that ended in a sudden stop with each joyful work.

Introducing the last few pieces, Sutisno showed his gratitude, “We wish you a happy holidays and are happy to bring you together in harmony here tonight.”

With solid beats driving the final performance, the seemingly random nature of the music captured a hypnotic effect among the audience. Ultimately the musicians continued to find their stride with one another, trading off melodies and returned to a unifying theme to triumphantly finish their set.

Heavily influenced by the same style of Gamelan music, it was ironic to see the stage hands setting up for the headliners. Quickly removing the traditional instruments from the stage, Walker staff meticulously moved in the guitar amps and drums for the Japanese experimental rock group. Linking some guitar pedals together a sonic burble burst out from the bass cabinet, providing a small glimpse of what was to come from OOIOO.

Dressed in white robe-like outfits, the four women took to their instruments and immediate command of the stage. Without the rhythmic Gamelan instruments from their recordings, this was a more sparse and direct form of OOIOO that took more from No-Wave rock in their style and approach.

pa2015ooioo1203_ Performing Arts, Music, Performances. Japanese avant-tribal-noise-pop collective OOIOO (oh-oh-eye-oh-oh) perform in the McGuire Theater, December 3, 2015. Under the intrepid leadership of Yoshimi P-We (cofounder of Japanese band Boredoms and the inspiration behind the Flaming Lips’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots), the group has subverted expectations and warped perceptions of what constitutes pop and experimental music since the mid-1990s.  The concert opens with a special set by Minnesota-based Javanese musician Joko Sutrisno and his Sumunar Gamelan Ensemble.

OOIOO performing at the Walker Art Center, December 3, 2015. Photo: Gene Pittman

 

To begin, vocalizing together, the four of them stretched out a harmony that conjured feedback trough the sound system. Coalescing to a fever pitch, drummer Ai introduced a rhythm that would remain constant virtually for the entire performance.

Building up toward accents, the tribal rhythms and a meandering groove from bassist Aya laid a foundation for Yoshimi and second guitarist Kayan to repetitiously play counterpoint melodies with one another. Meeting each other along the way they’d continue to stretch the sound of their strings, often ending with one another playing a twin leads.

Yoshimi’s vocals would blend with the melodies and would weave in and out, often treated with electronic effects. Her vocals sounded conversational at times leaving the audience to feel a story of sorts as the drums stopped and started often shifting into an altogether totally different rhythm.

Continuing to ride an 80’s new wave sound, more effects were applied to the bass guitar’s sound, providing a fat groove that matched the funky rhythms Ai so seemingly effortlessly and masterfully employed. Matching one another once again later with a dub like quality, Kayan and Yoshimi dove into obtuse guitar riffs, treating their own instruments percussively with tapping and more enhanced tones.

More marching drum type beats and echoing vocals took OOIOO and the audience into prog-rock territory with Yoshimi’s child-like vocal bursts above the cacophony and entrancing sound of the band.

Sludgy bass lines and Ai performing patterns of tones on an electronic drum, the guitars rejoined with added dissonance, allowing for more spoken vocals and Yoshimi’s patented scream/singing. Evolving into a disco pattern that morphed into Math-rock it was a delight to not necessarily know where OOIOO was going to take each piece. While improvisation is certainly a part of the band’s formula, ultimately there is a pure structure that shows how well the women perform together, which was illustrated in the efforts when they’d rejoin each other with solid melodies and capturing rhythms.

Sheepishly taking bows toward the audience OOIOO left the stage and the audience, truly wanting more, gave them an elongated standing ovation. Eventually the house lights came up and as everyone was grabbing their coats and getting ready to leave, the four women returned to the stage causing everyone to laugh with joy as they stayed in their seats for a couple more tunes.

This was a really satisfying evening with OOIOO. For a group that has been around for 20 years, it’s remarkable this was the group’s Twin Cities debut. It’s been a sorrowful year for OOIOO since original founding member, Kyoko passed away in July. But as Yoshimi P-We and the band proved, the spirit of experimentation and organized chaos they so masterfully have carried on through the years continues to break new ground.

A Love Supreme: Danny Sigelman on The Campbell Brothers

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on The Campbell […]

The Campbell Brothers. Photo: Courtesy the artists

The Campbell Brothers. Photo: Courtesy the artists

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on The Campbell Brothers’ performance of A Love Supreme last night. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

One of the more anticipated performances during the chilly Winter this year finally came to fruition as The Campbell Brothers performed a spiritually enlightened set in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater last night. The centerpiece of the evening was the American Sacred Steel family’s recently commissioned celebration of saxophonist John Coltrane’s hallmark work, A Love Supreme, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.

Appropriately, the brothers were chosen by the Lincoln Center and Duke University to perform the classic piece, but utilizing a seemingly unlikely set of instruments, primarily the pedal steel guitar. Interestingly, the combination of the spiritually inclined instrument, commonly used in the church and the personal faith of brothers, Chuck, Darick, and Phillip Campbell, integrated beautifully with Coltrane’s original inspiration for the entire performance. While Phillip on guitar led most of the show in addressing the audience with his son Carl on drums and bassist Daric Bennett consistently holding down the rhythm, it was Chuck Campbell on pedal steel that musically shined throughout the night.

The group paced the evening by getting the audience warmed up with a series of gospel-inspired blues from their own songbook. Illustrating the origins and connection of Coltrane’s melding of the traditional forms of the blues and his own Christian beliefs, it was the perfect primer for the main course of the evening.

Taking the stage and rubbing their guitars with their fingers to warm up their strings, Phillip nodded toward the round of applause from the audience, “Thanks for the warm welcome in the cold weather.”

Showing their roots with ease, The Campbell Brothers gave the audience a slow building version of “Wade in the Water”. All the strings on stage in unison wonderfully played counterpoint to one another as melodies sprang against a chugging rhythm reflecting a true blues spirit. Finding their own groove, the audience  morphed into a sea of smiles and hand claps as Chuck took flight with a solo of rising notes that sounded like a soul singer.

Complementing the train whistle sounds from Chuck’s pedal steel, Philip provided narration on “Morning Train”. As a musical family their effortless transitions and trading of solos showed the real supportive nature of the group as the music carried the audience along for the countrified gospel number. Playing mostly rhythm, the song allowed for Philip to rise up from his chair as he charged through his own guitar solo, tearing through some serious soaring lead guitar work.

“When we go to church, we clap. We stand up. We shout along, run around the room. Whatever we need to do to show our love for the Lord. This is active music!” Philip preached, inspiring some call and response during “Hell no! Heaven yes!”

Chuck’s tone turned to a more rural blues sound, sounding like a harmonica with waning flourishes of movement across the strings of pedal steel he elicited screeching melodies atop the chugging rhythm as everyone sang along.

Calming things down, the Campbell Brothers gave grace to Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”. With Darick Campbell taking the lead melody with incredible lyricism, he made his instrument sing. Amid fluttering notes and a sustained, laid back energy that he pleasantly gave to the song, the Campbell Brothers showed the true gospel roots of Cooke.

Conjuring the true spirit of John Coltrane’s music, Chuck conceptually uplifted the feeling in the room with flurries of melodic clusters that echoed and gave a nod to Coltrane’s famous sheets of sound. After an elongated musical introduction the Campbell Brothers seemed to begin breathing life into the music. As the familiar mantra from Coltrane’s piece took musical shape on stage, the audience gleefully applauded and the rhythm section kicked in with a steady beat to support the flowing melodies between the instruments.

The bass held down an astute blues punch as the brothers led the meditative chant, “A Love Supreme” in unison, eventually inspiring the entire audience to sing along. It was a highly gratifying moment that was only a priming of the canvas the Campbell Brothers would eventually unravel as the song moved forward.

Much like Jimmy Garrison performed on record 50 years ago, bassist Daric Bennett took his turn for the “Resolution” section, holding onto the spiritual vibe of the song. For a rewarding solo that inspired shouts from the audience, even the band would shout their approval before Bennett returned to the main riff to a round of applause.

Blasting the primary melody of section, all three brothers incited an atmospheric but charging progression that coalesced in Philip’s slaying guitar solo to which Chuck brought out the gospel soul of his pedal steel.

Similarly Carl Campbell echoed Elvin Jones famous drum solo to introduce “Persuance”. Making his portion his own, he combined a steady hi-hat pattern that rapidly returned to his snare and back again. In odd time signature he attacked with sixteenth notes and aggressive bass drum that transitioned to again support the vamping his the rest of the band re-introduced with gospel coloring that lead back into the main melody. A woman in the front sang her praise with her arms lifted in the air; the rest of the audience passionately showed their own appreciation.

The frantic gallop urged the spirit of Coltrane and Philip again took another driving guitar solo that howled in devotion, as Chuck responded in standing virtually atop his lap steel, almost tipping it over entirely.

To wrap up the famous work the band brought back a steady blues. Chuck and Darick’s steel took to the sound of birds as the rhythm dissipated into cymbal washes and deep tones. The band began to sound like a gospel choir rounding out a hymn that left the exhausted audience with contentment and deep recognition. Taking in the audience’s standing ovation, the Campbell Brothers nodded humbly toward the crowd.

Acknowledging the audience, Philip sounded overwhelmed, “We’re really thankful to be here with you and we really appreciate your applause. Playing this music we really feel a connection to the music. We feel what Coltrane felt in being thankful to be in touch with the love supreme.”

Taking the room back to church, the Campbell Brothers rounded out the night with a soulful groove and encouraged everyone to clap and get up and move. Dancers bounced in the upper levels and soon the whole audience was clapping along as Darick sang, “Did you have a good time? Everyone lift your hands up in the air, wave them like you just don’t care!”

Like a true gospel revival the band kept the song going, all trading leads and keeping the audience on their feet before finally bringing the music to full throttle boil. Further displaying his abilities to make his instrument sing, Chuck ran up and down the scales with an avalanche of notes that brought the whole band to a final burst to finish off the incredible evening.

It was a fantastic night with the Campbell Brothers and well worth the wait. Anyone who was fortunate to brave the cold to come out to witness the music left the room truly uplifted. The band, genuinely kind and thankful for the response, left the stage and went out into the audience to shake hands and have pleasant exchanges that only further warmed the room and spirit of the night.

No posts