this past friday portland’s PICA brought antony and the johnsons to the arlene schnitzer concert hall. antony and the johnson performed with the oregon symphony orchestra opening the TBA festival. i have been looking forward to this for months. it’s been about four years now that i have been in love with the music of antony, collecting everything he is apart of and devoting a bit too much time to the justonestar forum. last year i flew to new york to see antony in a very similar concert with the brooklyn philharmonic at the brooklyn academy of music.

before the show i met up with fellow antony fans rebecca and erin, who came down from seattle for the show. they have seen antony several times before, so we talked about past shows and the possiblity of new songs. then we went to the hall, in the crowds of people i found cheryl, who was my company for the evening. she smartly brought us to a back entrance that had no crowds and we walked right in. i was amazed at how good our seats we, first row of the mezzanine just to the left of center stage. erin and rebecca were a couple of rows behind us. it wasn’t long before they dimmed the lights and the artistic directors of PICA and the oregon symphony came out and gave a short intro to antony and asked us to suggest other artists that the symphony could collaborate with. i have some, but i think it would be hard to get radiohead or bjork.

then the theater went black. a moment later in the darkness you could vaguely see antony’s shadow walk onto stage. the first too songs were song in complete darkness, forcing us to really listen to antony beautiful (love it or hate it) voice. his voice is often compared to billie holliday, bryan ferry, and nina simone, but i would say his is the voice of someones soul that is fulled with beauty, pain, hurt and love. he sings from a place in his body that few artist even know exist. after the second song a light on antony slowly brightened, coinciding with the emotions of the songs. during the forth song the main curtain was gradually lifted revealing the symphony behind it, yet still shrouded by a screen. after another song or two the screen lifted and the symphony, with members of the johnsons, were revealed during a string filled flourish of the song. the lighting also took off from that point, with a small bank of yellow lights high in the background of the stage providing most of the effects.

antony standing behind a microphone stand center stage, was simply beaming. he has said that performing live is his gift to the music world, and since he hasn’t performed in over a year, he was giving us everything he had. he played a handful of new songs and many old favorites. the orchestrations were perfect, a little more subdued than the one used at BAM last year, which at times took over. they were always there to enhance antony’s vocal and to take the johnson’s music to magical new levels, without ever overpowering the original intent. the new songs are breathtaking, using natural inspirations to tell stories of love and strength. the biggest surprise of the evening was his awesome cover of beyonce’s “crazy in love”, which he also performed at BAM, but this time he really let himself enjoy it and took it to an amazing place. truthfully i was hoping they would do his version of “i will survive”, i’ve heard it is a real stunner. the ninety minute set ended with two standing ovations, and in a way three because the crowd was still standing and applauding when the symphony stood and took their bows. i have to give the oregon symphony a lot of credit, they did an impressive job, bringing a cohesion to the music that the brooklyn philharmonic never attained. everyone involved with that evening should be immensely proud of themselves, and i hope they know how affected everyone was by the performance. we left the theater basking in the glow of what we just experienced, an amazing evening full of subtle beauty.

more photos on pitchfork.

PICA’s urban honking blog.

oregon live.

the setlist:

mysteries of love (julee cruise)
new song
cripple and the starfish
for today i am a boy
fell in love with a dead boy
kiss my name
new song
ghost (!?!)
crazy in love (beyonce)
dust & water
everything is new (moondog)
new song
river of sorrow

fell in love with a dead boy

everything is new (moondog)

river of sorrow

thanks to seaman33 on youtube.

  1. birdantony said:

    great review joseph. I hope to live such an emotional performance tomorrow in milan too!

  2. Thank you for the link to pictures, had not been able to find any. The show was indeed amazing!

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