Antony and the Johnsons in Concert


By Bryan Buss

Antony and the Johnsons lived up to their second album's (I Am a Bird Now,) critical hype when they played an intimate show at LA's historic Egyptian-inspired Vista Theater. Performing before the red curtain that covers the movie screen, Antony and his band, the Johnsons'bass, violin, guitar, and a mournful cello'covered songs as diverse as Leonard Cohen's 'The Guests' and the Supremes/Kim Wilde hit 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' in their signature haunting jazz/blues fashion, while also doing their own material justice, sounding better live than on disc. With very little talking and no movement around the stage, Antony sat at his piano and moved the enthusiastically appreciative audience with his operatic, searching voice and poetic lyrics. There's something so intimate and emotional in Antony's melancholy, quavering voice, it's almost an uncomfortable experience, like listening in on someone's private thoughts. At the same time, there's an undeniable liberating element to being so immersed in another's raw emotion. And it takes a rare talent to take a pop confection like Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)' and turn it moody and brooding. Highlights were 'Cripple and the Starfish' and 'You Are My Sister,' originally recorded with Boy George.' They played an hour-long set and then one short encore where they covered Velvet Underground's 'Candy Says.'