Watch again online!
Finale Friday 7E/4P
Rate your fave today!
Watch online now!
February 18th, 2009
Antony Performs At The Tibet House 16th Annual Benefit Concert
Antony And The Johnsons performed last night to a sold out Queen Elizabeth Theatre somewhat akin to my high school PTA meetings, consisting of too cool for school teen hipsters, the gender confused and a sampling of the LGBT community, all joined by their parents, the latter probably due to a writeup in The New Yorker recently spreading Antony’s androgynous message further, proving that he cuts through all demographics with his melodic and ethereal ballads of love, hurt, confusion and sadness.
Antony Hegarty, at times awkward from his height and bulk, yet pale skinned and delicate with his child-like shyness and tremulant voice scaling up and down effortlessly, he sat at his piano in near darkness with only half of his face in light; something obscuring his lighting created the effect of a hand across his face appearing to pull his head back from behind, as if the release of his voice was like the battle of light from dark itself. When I went to
purchase the new album The Crying Light today on iTunes, the artwork shows Antony with the shadow of a hand across his face, so what I thought was the accidental placement of an object in the way of the lighting it seems was intentional.
Accompanied by The Johnsons, a six piece band including violin, cello, electric guitar, drums, clarinet and saxophone, when not playing the piano Antony would rest his arms on the top of the piano, palms turning upwards as if in desperate prayer asking that God hear his sad lament.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as this was the first time I was seeing Antony And The Johnsons live in concert. I tend to only listen to his music in moments of sadness and solitude and thought it might have been a slow paced tear-inducing affair encouraging you to reflect on every sad thought you’d ever had, but found it was kept light by Antony’s endearing banter.
Early in his set he choked on his own saliva having eaten some chocolate before coming on
stage, and told us of an interview Grace Jones gave where she did the same, gargling and spitting out “Oh darling, I just choked on my own saliva” in her familiar snarl.
Singing Twilight, Antony got the lyrics wrong and restarted, saying he’d performed the song far too long to get the words wrong. He wrote it in the early 90s and performed it first at the “No Exit’ art gallery in Manhattan. He felt, he said, that he was at a turning point in his life, that everything felt different and “…the floor had fallen out beneath me.” It’s this insight that adds an additional layer of intimacy to any live event and makes you feel part of a special and important happening shared by only you and a few hundred of your close friends. As a further treat, we heard a version of Beyonce and Jay-Z‘s Crazy in Love.
Antony attempted a three chord song he couldn’t quite remember expressing – Thank you for your love and it felt as if we were watching him in his own studio performing for a small group rather than being delivered a standard run through of past hits and new album selections. He caught his drummer off guard when he said “And do you remember where the drums come in here…?” The drummer didn’t, but vamped well.
He was distracted when singing Cripple And The Starfish during the encore, his mind had wandered back to high school in San Jose where his boyfriend at the time, who he described as a “f**king dickwad” and who he had devoted all of his emotional energy to. He even suggested that his boyfriend hit him as a substitute for their lack of physical contact (the boyfriend did not hit him.) Their relationship ended when the boy got a girl pregnant, only for her to have an abortion and become a Mormon six months later. San Jose was not the happiest of times, but the experience with that dickwad informed some beautiful lyrics and for that we can be grateful!
Sadly, the superb orchestration of the Johnsons and Antony’s seemingly limitless range were marred by poor sound engineering on the part of the venue, with crackling over the microphones and sound levels adjusted incorrectly such that I had to put my fingers in my ears for some of the louder moments. I’m glad the venue was so large and so dark – I would never have forgiven myself if Antony or any Johnson had seen me blocking my ears in their presence.
Antony repeatedly expressed his gratitude and pleasure at being in Toronto, indeed, he carefully counted on his fingers the number of letters shared by his name and the city’s. Three.
“I knew there was something special about our relationship” he smiled.
Were you there? If so, what did you think?
Photograph Courtesy Of Getty ImagesTweet