Antony and the Johnsons at the Vogue Theatre

Antony and the Johnsons live in Strasbourg April 2009 photo

Antony and the Johnsons live in Strasbourg April 2009.

Review – Antony and the Johnsons at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, Feb 27 09

– by Gina Tessaro

Antony Hegarty called me sweetheart. Actually he was addressing the room at the time, but I’m pretty sure he was looking at me when he said it. He’s a real charmer, as he proved at his sold-out show at the Vogue Theatre last Friday night, accompanied by his collection of Johnsons.

The set began with a performance by the dancer Johanna Constantine, who stood starkly at center stage and metamorphosed from pupa to bird, to razor-clawed deer monster slashing at the air to the strains of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Her performance was an apt intro for Hegarty’s songs, which often deal with themes of transformation and transcendence, relating to his life as a transgendered person.

Following Constantine, Hegarty and the band arrived on stage and kept things fairly serious for awhile, as they worked their way through a number of songs from their recent album, The Crying Light. Seated at a massive black grand piano, Hegarty’s astonishing voice was perfectly matched by his crack band of chamber pop musicians, four of whom are multi-instrumentalists.

The six Johnsons brought lush orchestration to the songs “One Dove”, “Aeon”, and “For Today I Am A Boy”. But they’re also capable of paring things down to the bare essentials, such as the intensely soulful treatment of Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love”, on which Hegarty’s lusty vocals were sparingly accompanied by Julia Kent (originally from Vancouver) on cello and the metronomic tok-tok-tok of Parker Kindred’s drumstick.

Between songs, Hegarty enjoys a good conversation, turning up the house lights all the better to get to know us. In contrast to the sorrowful tendency of his music, he can be funny and a bit of a goofball. He’s also heartfelt about his causes, in particular the present state of the planet. He worries aloud about the future of the redwoods and the scarcity of Pacific salmon, and frets about the carbon footprint of touring with a band.

“Move here!” someone from the audience helpfully suggested.

I couldn’t agree more.

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