Antony and The Johnsons
Town Hall; New York, NY

“It’s good to be home,” said Antony Hegarty, his face dimly lit behind a glistening grand piano. Seeing a performance by the angel-voiced darling is something special, but seeing him take the stage in New York City, his adopted home since the early 1990s, is even more extraordinary. With the Johnsons laying down perfect accompaniment, Antony moved effortlessly and beautifully through a set of tunes from all three of the group’s LPs, including a healthy selection from their latest, The Crying Light.

Minimal white stage lighting rose and fell, as the band’s songs fluttered from delicate, somber tones to soaring, passionate crescendos. Following the poignant unwinding of “Kiss My Name,” Antony called the number a “happy little song from the perspective of a dead person” and likened it to Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. “Shake That Devil” stood out as the most visceral tune of the night, but many moments delivered comparable doses of heat and heart. “Fistful of Love,” from 2005’s I Am A Bird Now, featured a wailing guitar solo from Doug Weiselman, who also stirred up many other tunes with his saxophone and clarinet skills.

Towards the end of the set, Antony recalled walking down the street in Manhattan “dolled up as only a 19-year-old can be dolled up,” while a police car followed him chanting “faggot, faggot” over the loudspeaker. “I walked up to the window of the car, leaned over and said, ‘Did you say something to me officer?’” Antony then launched into an astounding cover of “Crazy in Love,” his unabashed essence carrying Beyoncé’s tune into new realms.

The night began with The Mystery of Claywoman, a monologue by a 500 million year woman-of-the-universe on infinity, insignificance, and the existential inevitability of our ever-expanding universe. Her insights were sharp and humorous, but grim. Antony brought the evening to a close with an encore of “Cripple and the Starfish” and “Hope There’s Someone,” songs of replenishing and optimistic love. These ethereal tunes were a perfect parting gift, giving the night a final gesture towards hope, just as Antony’s voice subtlety sweeps through the upper registers and tugs your heart along with it.

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