Antony and the Johnsons: Different

February 28, 2009

After seeing Antony and the Johnsons at St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church in September 2005, I declared that it was one of the best concerts I had ever been to. Considering I’ve been to a zillion gigs, that was pretty high praise. But it really was that transcendent.

So last night I went to the Antony & the Js show at the Vogue Theatre with the hope that it would be another great show, but also the fear that it couldn’t possibly top the last time. (Hope and fear – the story of my life.) As it turned out, Antony and the group gave another sublime concert. I can’t, however, really say whether it was better or not as good as the church performance. Instead, I’ll say it was different.

The St. Andrew’s-Wesley gig was all about the beauty: of Antony’s singular voice, his mesmerizing songs, the gorgeous strings, and the spiritual setting. It was like going to church, but one where a large transgendered man with a heavenly voice could be free to express himself.

At the Vogue, the beauty was definitely there. But there were new dimensions. Musically, the strings were as affecting as last time, but the group sounded less like a chamber ensemble and more like a band. Multi-instrumentalist Doug Wielselman segued from playing gentle clarinet lines to shredding assertive riffs on electric guitar. Rob Moose switched between acoustic guitar, violin and vocals with finesse.

As for Antony, just like he did three years ago, he fully conveyed the love and pain of his songs. When not singing, he was way more talkative, going on extended riffs about the loss of street culture in vulnerable communities, the therapeutic value of fish, and other random topics. He was funny and adorable. I also liked his big handbag.

A word about the opening act. It was this intriguing creature who did this strange dance, with various props, including what looked like chocolate sauce that she poured all over herself. Interesting. Different.

I’m stealing again from BunkleLife, who excels in stealth videography. Here’s a superb version of “Fistful of Love” from the Vogue:



  1. So very very wonderful. And I will second you re. the big handbag.
    And as for the opening creature – she had me mesmerized (and disturbed) until she did the blade-hand dance…wishing she’d kept it to the gauze and chocolate sauce.

  2. Chris!

    I was at Antony and the Johnsons too. The cellist Julia Kent is a friend of mine. Lovely comments, Chris!


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