Preview: Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson - American Style, Royal Festival Hall

There’s nothing quite as exciting as a supergroup – when musical powerhouses join hands to try and take over the world. The bigger the name, the bigger the anticipation – this one might be a tough one to top.

Avant garde icon Laurie Anderson and minimalist Philip Glass have worked collaboratively before – considering the breadth of their musical reach, that comes as no surprise – but their new project takes their partnership to a new level.

This performance at the Royal Festival Hall comes after their first London date sold out in just a few hours, and is another in a long line of dates celebrating Glass’s 80th birthday. Other shows over the course of the year have included the dance opera Les Enfants Terrible by the Royal Ballet and the UK premiere of the Double Concerto for Two Pianos, as well as a performance of Glass’s masterful Music In 12 Parts.

Anderson, meanwhile, is well known for her multi-media work, specifically in combining musical and visual art, and American Style will include some of this. Alongside this prepared artwork, however, the night will feature an innate sense of improvisation. It is this factor that will most likely quell the one potential pitfall to two artistic titans combining – the dilution of both Anderson and Glass’s individual voices.

The notes for American Style freely admit the contrasts in approach between Anderson and Glass, saying "American Style is the empathetic resonance of two very different styles finding one musical language." The idea of a loose structure, and a ‘trading’ of songs, is an exciting one for fans of both artists – given their individual creativity, it promises a unique viewing and listening experience, and one that will not compromise on sound.

Much of the detail of the show is left unsurprisingly vague; the involvement of composer and cellist Rubin Kodheli is, for example, a mystery, though he too has performed music by Anderson in the past. What we do know, however, is that work, either spoken or written prose, by artists Allen Ginsberg, Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed will play some part in the evening.

While superlatives and hyperbole are too often used in the promotion of anything in the 21st Century, it would be wrong not to bookmark this show as ‘unmissable’ – the names, the artistic thrill and the mystery make it a cultural haven of excitement. 

See Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson - American Style at Royal Festival Hall on 18th May.