LAURIE ANDERSON at the Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne), tonight (Thursday, September 13). $25.50. 416-323-1251.
she's the icy-cool embodiment of the aloof avant aesthete, and he's the gutter poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. Together, Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed may be the oddest couple in contemporary music, but it works for them. Anyone who thought the iconoclastic twosome were far too headstrong and controlling ever to collaborate on a musical project will be surprised to learn that they've been working together -- albeit discreetly -- for years now.
Reed was involved in Anderson's personally revealing new Life On A String (Elektra) album, although his low-key guitar cameo on the track One Beautiful Evening isn't quite the sort of fireworks display you'd hope to hear from their studio summit.
"Yeah, you can barely hear him," admits Anderson with a note of disappointment from their New York headquarters. "Lou's role with this album was more of the critic. He'd check out my lyrics and say, "Why don't you just write what you mean here instead of saying what it's like?'
"And I'd respond, "They're metaphors, Lou. You know, like they have in poetry. I thought I'd use one or two.'
"Of course, he's an amazing lyricist, so I did pay attention to everything he said, and his insights were always interesting, but we have very different styles of writing."
There's been speculation ever since Anderson and Reed were first spotted doing yoga together in an exclusive gym on Manhattan's Lower East Side that they might eventually conspire on an album from the ground up.
While Anderson confides that "we talk about it occasionally," so far they have no plans to move their home recording experiments beyond the walls of their New York home -- however much their neighbours would appreciate it.
"We've actually been playing a lot together at home, usually just violin and guitar, but really loudly, which is so much fun. If anyone's complaining about the noise, we wouldn't know about it. We can't hear the phone.
"All the other music we make is intended for release, and there are always deadlines to meet. But this is truly for us only, so it feels very luxurious to just sit around and play. As acting engineer, I've been taping all of it, and there's some really weird stuff going on. It's not like Lou's stuff or mine. It's very, umm... emotional.
"We were listening back to some tapes the other day and we both thought, "Wow, this is great!' But I don't think any of it will ever come out. As much as I hate to admit it, if we knew other people would be listening to what we were doing, we'd be a lot more careful. What makes this so much fun is playing without being careful for a change -- just going wherever the music leads."
Knowing how self-conscious Reed can be, the chances of those tapes ever surfacing are significantly smaller than the likelihood of Anderson hooking up with, say, Britney Spears and Jewel to release a yodelling album.
"That would be a fantastic idea!" shouts Anderson in response to the suggestion of a pop diva yodel showdown, only half joking. "Recently I was the judge in an all-girl songwriting contest, and as part of it Britney Spears performed in Central Park. She started doing this strange yodelling, and it was amazing.
"I'd never heard yodelling in Manhattan before. The sound was bouncing off the buildings, making this incredible gee-yow-oooo-gla-goo-ooo noise. I was really glad I heard that."
Should that yodelling album with Britney Spears and Jewel ever get made, I'll expect to see a shout-out in the liner notes someplace after God and before Slim Whitman.
"If you can get Britney and Jewel on the line," laughs Anderson, "you can produce the session."