Sunday, November 05, 2006

antony and the johnsons with charles atlas @ the barbican

(from Saint Ann's Warehouse, NYC, 2004 performance)

Antony and the Johnsons are the musical equivalent of marmite - you either love it or you hate it. I love it, and as anybody who loves Antony et al will testify, it will change your short life. I sobbed my eyes out through The Cripple and the Starfish, and that nagging feeling that all is not right with the world has now magically disappeared.

A group of impossibly intriguing women (mostly women anyway...I think) were individually filmed on a revolving platform and projected onto a back screen (courtesy of technically proficient Charles Atlas) throughout the gig, providing each song with a powerful narrative thread that invited you to interpret each song as an experience (I know, I know, it sounds terrible - it was wonderful, and made me realise how little I see real flesh and blood un-airbrushed women in any other commercial art form).

And Antony. Antony Antony Antony. Such a domineering physical presence, oozing vulnerability and awkwardness matched with an admirable degree of self-containment, and, of course, that ethereal voice, walking the tightrope between agony and ecstasy. And The Johnsons - lush, divine, passionate performances from an intuitively beautiful mini-orchestra that fell somewhere between meditiation and madness.

There's something very potent about being sandwiched between one of your most beloved friends having a spiritual experience in the presence of Antony and the Johnsons, and a complete stranger weeping uncontrollably next to you, perhaps for very different reasons, as you wipe the mascara-clogged teardrops from your eyes. That, and Paul Gambuccini was sitting behind us.

What else can I say - it was an Antony and the Johnsons gig: draw your own conclusions. I feel positively beatific.


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