N&N Festival Diary, Monday, May 5

Ian Collins Back in 1981 musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson declared her stellar talent with O Superman, the perfect pop song and a sinister sci-fi commentary on the real might of America - a statement of intent for her entire multi-media career to date.

Ian Collins

Back in 1981 musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson declared her stellar talent with O Superman, the perfect pop song and a sinister sci-fi commentary on the real might of America - a statement of intent for her entire multi-media career to date.You can catch this mesmerising classic on YouTube. Better yet, the electrifying Laurie is in Norwich this evening as part of her long-running Homeland global tour with its scathing critique of the US and the Iraq War.

Fresh from Chicago and the Barbican - where old friend David 'Talking Heads' Byrne was in a very starry audience - this consistently cutting-edge artist is shooting through Switzerland, Italy and Germany later in the week before more concerts in Canada and the US.

In the past year she turned 60, and in the past month married veteran rocker and fellow New York cultural icon Lou Reed. Maybe he'll be at the Theatre Royal too. Her latest, multi-layered song cycle - played partly on the miniature tape-bow violin she invented herself and with her voice ranging from a plaintive solo to a Greek chorus - manages to be both intimate and menacing.

t It was a case of all's well that ends well at the festival's opening night… after many performers and spectators were held up for four hours. They were stuck in a 19-mile tailback when a lorry jack-knifed on the A11 so that many arrived with only minutes to spare.

Bad news for everyone, of course. Except that such trauma was a rather brilliant advert for National Express East Anglia, the festival's principal sponsor. All those who had travelled to Norwich by train for the gala launch arrived in good time and perfect temper. The rest were railing after road chaos.

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t Norfolk may have the oldest fixed-site festival in the land, but we have rarely featured on the agenda for arts coverage nationally, so it was good to hear Jonathan Holloway feted on Radio 3's In Tune programme with the great Sean Rafferty. Our director was on air with guitar duo John Williams and John Etheridge who are bridging the divide between the classical and jazz worlds in their sell-out concert in St Peter Mancroft Church near the end of the festival. Luckily the trio met up in the foyer beforehand because the guitarists had forgotten which of their 10 dates up and down in the land in the next three weeks they were meant to be plugging.

t Returning from Norwich to Southwold early yesterday evening I stopped for a walk in Reydon wood. Here I heard - and watched - my first nightingale of the year, and saw my first orchids. Everywhere in East Anglia, May makes a tuneful and colourful festival.

t Whenever a headlining event is officially Sold out - as with today's two performances by the Theatre of Widdershins puppeteers (bringing a marvellous tale of elfin shoemakers and a magical mouse tailored for three to nine-year-olds), you have not missed the boat entirely. Return tickets are almost always available on the door 30 minutes before the show is due to begin.

HOT TICKETS

Today's two-for-one ticket offer is for O Superwoman - the fabulous Laurie Anderson, “self-motivated spy” on all things American and writer of hauntingly melodic electronic music, at the Norwich Theatre Royal this evening.

To bag this bargain call the box office - 01603 766400 - by noon.

WHAT'S ON

Today:

11am and 2pm Theatre of Widdershins, Norwich Puppet Theatre. SOLD OUT.

1pm RAM: Wu Qian and Amandine Savary, Assembly House

3pm NoFit State Circus, Earlham Park

8pm Laurie Anderson, Norwich Theatre Royal