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Writing about Laurie Anderson is like dancing about architecture: something inevitably gets lost in translation. Her rich, playful performances--which she once dubbed "difficult listening"--offer ear-pleasing sounds, eye-delighting images, and spare but evocative lyrics that lead the brain on yet never reveal their innermost mystery. The same is true of her cool, sleek stage persona. Straight? Gay? Bi? Trans? Nothing? The question of sexual identity only gets muddier when she indulges in what she calls "audio drag," deepening her voice electronically to create a male alter ego named Fenway Bergamot. Anderson makes masterful use of language--not for clarity, but to compound elusiveness--and of all the other elements in her pieces: music, projections, accompanists, and, crucially, herself. Commissioned for the 2010 winter Olympics, Anderson's current show, Delusion, is an "epic about longing, identity, and memory"--inspired, she says, by her realization that she's "been asleep for 20 years." (Not continuously, but cumulatively, at the rate of five to eight hours each night.) Expect an unclassifiable, dream-like event. What Archibald MacLeish once said of poetry, that it "should not mean but be," is also true of Anderson's amazing work. --Jack Helbig

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