14 July 2010

Only An Expert Can Deal With The Problem

So... last night, I went with my friends Billy and Kelly to see Laurie Anderson at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street in NYC. From the start, Laurie's performance was totally focused and she was connecting to her audience very well. Her longtime love, Lou Reed, was seated with Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) fairly close behind us and we were anticipating them getting onstage to join her. I like her newest release "Homeland" as a concept record for its current insight and wry humor. These elements definitely came across live, but not in the way I was expecting.

It's a shame that we (and others) made for the exits after 40 minutes. The venue was oversold and the management at LPR put chairs and tables in front rather than on the sides or the back. Ms. Anderson was looking around and over wait staff as they delivered trays of food to audience members. REALLY bizzare. As she performed, folks were chowing down on Kobe Beef Sliders and Asian Slaw while drinking beer from pilsner glasses with the NY Yankees logo. In a way, Laurie's musical poetics on the state of the USA in 2010 (consumerism, interpersonal apathy, etc.) were ALL too poignant in a setting that served as a glorified TGI Fridays. The seated crowd seemed to be enacting the same "Homeland" scenes that informed her newest work.

When that particular club was called Life, the set up was more like Bowery Ballroom or Irving Plaza... Spartan and show-oriented. Uptown spots like The Supper Club knew which shows to make "standing" and which shows to make "seated". That insight was TOTALLY missed here. However, a club can't sell you much extra fare in THAT kinda space and clearly this venue has a dinner theatre agenda.

That said, I didn't understand the way the LPR space was assigned. A long, narrow ante-room which allowed for.... what? Two banquettes, social mingling (which means standing with friends and logging onto Le Poisson's Le-Wifi) and NO stage view? The performance space had an awkward corner stage between two exit doors... More like a space suited for "Captain and Tennile's Lounge Of 70s Lite-FM Memories". Sadly, I really could not shoot much in the way of photos. We couldn't stand still as we were getting bumped by confused passers-by and the general conditions were awful. Mind you, this assessment is coming from an NYC concert-goer who has seen events in almost EVERY standing-room venue in the city over the past 20 years.

In closing, I will note that there were many unhappy faces there and (as I saw later) some really unkind Twitter postings were made about this event. Ms. Anderson (and we) deserved better. Au revoir, Le Poisson Rouge! This will be my last visit.