Antony and the Johnsons Kick Off U.S. Tour

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Antony and the Johnsons / Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg
WRITTEN BY
Brian Mcmanus

Antony and the Johnsons opened their 15-date U.S. tour Monday night at Glenside, PA's Keswick Theater, just outside Philadelphia, with a 90-minute set that featured songs from each of the band's albums, a stunning cover of Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love," and eight of the eleven cuts from their latest record, The Crying Light.

Antony and the Johnsons are all about frontman Antony Hegarty's otherworldly vocals and the offbeat passion of his songs. Many in the audience (roughly two-thirds of the venue's 1341 seats were filled) sat enraptured like teenage girls at a reading of Twilight, leaning forward in their seats and listening intently for chords and lyrics they might recognize, breaking into fits of applause when they did.

The biggest response came for tunes off Hegarty's 2005 Mercury Prize-winning album, I Am A Bird Now, including "Hope There's Someone," "For Today I Am A Boy," and "Fistful of Love," a piano balladwith electric guitar, strings, and drums that finds Hegarty musing about the pain of relationships.

But the new tracks didn't disappoint. Hegarty moved gracefully from an arrhythmic gem featuring Spanish guitar ("One Dove") to up-tempo, piano-led songs like "Epilepsy is Dancing".

Live, The Crying Light is heavy on eerie dissonance, relying on violins, cellos, and Hegarty's quavering tenor. The singer sat behind a piano all night, admitting he hadn't played the instrument live for two years and apologizing for any "sour" notes he may hit. "I've got lemons on the ends of my fingers," he said.

The band's version of Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love" was a standout. The seven-piece group -- outfitted in black suits, white button-ups, and skinny black ties, they looked more like Antony and the Reservoir Dogs -- turned the dance floor-friendly Top 40 hit into a mournful ballad by placing somber guitar, staccato violin, and Hegarty's shivering vocals where Beyoncé's commanding sass once was.

Before ending the show with a two-song encore, Hegarty introduced his band -- Julia Kent, Rob Moose, Jeff Langston, Maxine Moston, Parker Kindred, Doug Wieselman -- to appreciative applause. The group performed with hardly a misstep, recreating the studio recordings with admirable authenticity. But even their practiced instruments couldn't match the majestic power of Hegarty's one-of-a-kind voice.

More photos after the jump!

Setlist:
"Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground"
"Epilepsy is Dancing"
"One Dove"
"For Today I Am A Boy"
"Kiss My Name"
"Everglade"
"Another World"
"Shake That Devil"
"The Crying Light"
"Crazy in Love"
"Fistful of Love"
"You Are My Sister"
"Twilight"
"Aeon"

Encore
"Cripple and the Starfish"
"Hope There's Someone"


Antony and the Johnsons / Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg


Antony and the Johnsons / Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg


Antony and the Johnsons / Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg


Glendside, PA's Keswick Theater / Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg

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