Antony and the Johnsons
In Concert with the Oregon Symphony, conducted by Gregory Vajda, Resident Conductor for the Oregon Symphony
Co-presented with the Oregon Symphony
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Fri. Sept. 5, 2008, 8:30 pm
Posted by: Camille Gerharter
Antony and the Johnsons is hot. And the people who go to see Antony and the Johnsons are hot. The Oregon Symphony is beautiful, and the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is beautiful.
Seeing this show is a profound experience and one wants to do it justice by writing something profound, but in the shadow of this experience just to breathe becomes profound, and putting words on it is comparably squirrel droppings.
He sang 13 songs, in a row. Each was equally raw and refined.
The first song was sung in the dark. The audience lights were off, the stage lights were off, one could barely capture visually that the curtain was closed and he was standing in the middle of the stage, in front of the curtain. His voice carried like a soft lullaby easing us into the mystery, spinning us into his tale, in the darkness.
The lights rose slightly and gently for the second song, “tenderly renew . .. my face and your face . . tenderly renew … every sock and shoe . .. my face and your face . . . tenderly renew,” and we came out of the darkness.
He vocally reincarnated the essence of Nina Simone, Billy Holliday, Jeff Buckley and the human soul. His bold stature appeared rather to disregard gravity and float in its place. From his stationary core his fingers wrists and hands sputtered and fluttered as inspired companions around his stationary, cloaked body and mature, timeless effeminate face.
In one song, he sang that about a disembodied limb: “it’ll grow back like a starfish.” We’re brought in to his dream metaphors, and subsequently grounded in the deep reality of the human emotional landscape. “For today I am a child, for today I am a boy…”, he continued, and I believed him. In between the songs the audience raised their hands in clappture, above their heads, above their hearts, connected, eyes smiling and crying at the same time.
The next exposure told us of a day where he came across a boy, who was severely injured and probably dead, but instead of call the police he laid down beside him and “held his head.” At this point the orchestra stopped and he stopped and there was silence. In silence a sheer black curtain that hung behind him and in front of the orchestra raised slowly, and as it did his chin raised, and after at least a full minute, maybe many minutes, of silence and almost unnoticeable, elegant, delicate lifting of his gaze, it began again “I fell in love with a dead boy.”
Each song surged forth an authentic transmission, like a SETI project message breathing itself into outer space.
“Won’t you kiss my name,” invited us anthropomorphize an abstract, poetic concept. Then we were brought back to earth, to a lily pond and amongst falling leaves. Into solace and connection with nature, where cyclical purity holds our memories safely away from cognitive judgment. “Ghost leave me” preceded a cover of Beyonce’s “love got me lookin so crazy right now . . . got me hoping you’ll page me right now.” The groove played like an instrument in his limbs as we heard two songs at once; Beyonce in his body, and the confessional pleading for sanity in the frequencies of the orchestra.
Oh there’s so so much.
There were two more songs and then the encore. “How long will dust wait,” “everything is new …and I cry every time.” And by this point I knew “it,” the “it” that one remembers from glimpses of synchronicity between the present senses of the body and the rolling energy of all lives. And he stood like a pearl in the dark, for his last song “black river, river of sorrow, …river of time, …don’t swallow this time.” And we know the black river like it’s run through our yard for all our lives, but for the first time someone else sees it too.