Last Thursday Laurie Anderson began her residency at SF Jazz with a duet performance with Eyvind Kang on viola. With Ms. Anderson on electric violin and MacBook (yes, I think we can officially call the Mac an instrument) generating samples and sound effects and loops and echoes, the expanded range of the viola to violin was lovely. They both improvised over tonal centers and motifs. One tends to forget what an accomplished violinist she is; for all the performance art aspects of her work and the visuals, this was a performance that centered on her tone (lovely, not an easy thing on a solid body electric) and ideas. I realized she has probably listened to a fair amount of the late violinist Billy Bang (a long time colleague of Butch Morris). The performance was re-scheduled from a year before, due to the death of Lou Reed. Without needing to overtly mention it, the evening was all about life, and death, and love. The first spoken words were about the death of her father, later the death of a mare, and the love of a stallion in her family for a mare, who was eventually sold, to the heartbreak of the stallion. There were no electronic effects on her voice, which was intimate and conversational in the small space. Kang was solid and attentive; often one had to look at their hands to figure out who was playing what. His acoustic viola, a beautiful instrument, was also treated with some looping and echo effects. Ms. Anderson, with trade mark spiked hair, wore a knee length baggy silk plaid shirt, and silk pants that resembled jeans. A very hip grunge look. As with all her performances, the profound, and the absurd are noted with wry humor and modesty, in the face of an unknowable universe. Which why, 40 years into her career, she is still the hippest gal (or guy) in town.