Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Beyoncé not very welcome at Antony show

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with a performance from Antony and the Johnsons. The androgynous English-Irish, New York-based singer-songwriter: whose otherworldly, vibrato-heavy voice is among the most polarizing in modern pop music: according to cokemachineglow contributor Joel Elliott, “requires the listener to be in such a state of emotional reception and vulnerability” for his songs to succeed.

Finding that place on command, as conforming to his schedule would require, seemed like a daunting task.

I don’t know if I ever really got there. Given that half the crowd appeared to be crying over the course of the sixteen-song set, I’m assuming I didn’t.  

Fortunately, I didn’t need to.  

In person, Antony and his six-piece backing band are certainly intense, and the whole performance felt heart-on-sleeve sincere, as I expected.  

Yet there was a humor, even an optimism, persistent throughout that transformed songs from this year’s The Crying Light and left me convinced that there was more to this music thank the stark, brutal black-and-white photos that adorn his records would suggest.

Despite the reduction of personnel brought about by touring orchestral material with only limited strings, horns, and percussion, the songs’ new arrangements sounded bigger, warmer, and even joyous at times. More than anywhere else, this happened on set-closer “Aeon,” where full-volume percussion yielded a stunning affirmation I couldn’t have possibly seen coming.  

A baroque-tinged cover of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” probably helped, too, as did Antony’s extended conversation with the guy who shouted “Fuck Beyoncé!” afterward: “Oh, really, I know you’re joking,” followed by a short, probably improvised, song in which he asked why Beyoncé was sacred.  

Given that this was Antony Hegarty, who I can’t help but associate with the dead-of-winter, I was taken aback in the best way possible.

There’s also the fact that his current backing band is excellent. The six-piece ensemble, consisting of cellist Julia Kent, drummer Parker Kindred, bassist Jeff Langston, violinist Maxim Moston and multi-instrumentalists Rob Moose and Doug Wieselman, who handled guitars, additional violin parts, and horns, matched the singer-pianist almost perfectly. “Another World” benefited from the atmospheric violin drones that carried throughout, and Moose’s playing on the traditional “I Was Young When I Left Home,” on which only he accompanied Hegarty, was understated and near-perfect.  

The evening was, in fact, largely defined by its almost total lack of irony. The crowd was completely silent for opener Johanna Constantine, who performed two aggressive experimental dance pieces over the course of twenty minutes, and Antony seemed to respond to everyone who felt the need to tell him either to come back soon, or that they loved him, or that he sang better than Beyoncé, which he didn’t agree with. Encore “Hope This Someone” howled toward its conclusion and the band left.  

I saw the faces of everyone around me and was more than slightly convinced that I’d just missed a gut-punch.

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  • K

    kyleMar 7, 2009 at 1:55 am

    it doesn’t have much to do with her. it’s just kind of a cutesy title that attempts to articulate the mood of the show by offering a stark contrast.

  • K

    keisha brooksMar 6, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I still don’t get it.
    So what does this have to do with beyonce?