Antony and the Johnsons, Manchester International Festival

Posted on July 7, 2009

This is how Antony from Antony and the Johnsons comes back to his country of birth; at the Manchester International Festival, collaborating with the Manchester Camerata orchestra as well as world recognised lighting and set artists. Staged in Manchester’s own gold gilded Opera House, the collaboration is a mix of traditional and modern; the ancient building against the minimalist, pure-white set, the Mercury prize winning vocalist and band contrasted and complimented with the Camerata. It seems unlikely on paper that this fusion of old and new will work, but they effortlessly support each other to create a breath taking show.

They work their way through an array of songs from A&TJ’s back catalogue, including Cripple and the Starfish and For Today I Am a Boy. The songs seem made for the boost provided by the Camerata, adding power and depth to the performance that only a 36 strong orchestra can give. Throughout Antony pulsates and undulates his body to the music, each note erupting from his mouth, saturated with emotion. Every movement, every sound, seems to be perfectly sincere. We can forgive the rare moments when Antony’s voice falters because of the emotional journey he takes us on.

The lighting itself takes the whole performance to a new level. Sometimes it creates emerald whirlpools across the singer’s face, other times it creates constellations of red pin pricks that surround the set. A high point for me was, during the orchestral cover of Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love (soon to be released as a single), a great green laser descending from the ceiling, tracing lines across the floor of the stage and shattering into flecks of green light across the whole theatre.

All the elements of this performance created a perfect balance. Not a single element at any point overshadowed another. The lighting, the setting, the vocals and the score, all combine to create a truly awe-inspiring show. The two standing ovations were well deserved.

The New Current, A Fresh Stream of Student Media!
Monday 6 July, 2009

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