Antony And The Johnsons @ Hamer Hall
“A concert like no other, Swanlights is a soaring hymn of love and loss, a reverie of nature, a celebration of the feminine and ode to our ephemeral place in the world.”
From the first acapella phrase sung, Antony’s voice cut through the concert hall like a brilliant shard of glass, shimmering through the darkened stage alone and restless. The ghostly vibrato rattled through the opening lines of Rapture, the singular voice so affecting without want of any instrumentation. Slowly, through the blackness a singular, diffused light emerged and Antony appeared chiroscuro-esque in the center of the stage. As the light rushed in, so did the bottom end of the orchestra and to powerful effect.
Green lights adorned the stage, like some alien emerald crystals slowly moving in sync with the music. The 44-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was Antony’s backing band tonight and with the lingering refrain of Cripple And The Starfish, the violins were both poignant and suggestive. The song built to a tremendous peak of horns, flute and violins then slowly faded into the opening refrain. The lasers flickered anthropomorphic shapes across the stage, when finally, the curtain was raised to unveil Antony, resplendent in a white robe not unlike those worn by a gospel choir.
For Today I am A Boy was of particular significance; I began to feel very grateful that we live in an age where Antony can be open and accepted as a transgender artist. The sincerity of the lyrics acted like a declaration and it was heartrending to watch. The stage turned completely white, the hairs on my arm pricked up and I must admit I shed a little tear!
Pink and purple floodlights then hit the stage, the geometric shapes taking on crystalline forms like chunks of agate and amethyst, as the opening bars of Another Place took hold. Lighting artist Chris Levine and set designer Carl Robertshaw had created an enchanting space for Antony’s songs to reside, metamorphosing from warm, crystal caves to glacial worlds and emerald green planes of the subconscious. The green lasers flickeed like grainy super eight film as Antony launched into a cover of Beyonce’s Crazy In Love. The emerald light then mutated into a luminescent background and Epilepsy Is Dancing began, in which I found the orchestra occasionally too loud for Antony’s falsetto, dominating the vocal in parts of the song.
A peach and orange hue sun set over the stage, ushering in the beautiful Swanlights. The simple phrase “I’m living it’s a golden thing, it means everything” articulated a universal humanity – the life present in all things. For a concert to address questions on life, nature and the human condition is an undeniable achievement and a true testament to the artist’s songwriting prowess. An aural and visual spectacular, Swanlights journeyed the audience through icy worlds, evergreen forests and caves of crystalline structures, all beset by Antony’s compelling vocals. A Melbourne Festival highlight, Antony instigated a self-reflection within the listener, compelling the audience to greater levels of understanding and beauty, a feat unparalleled by any other performer of this day and age.
BY CASSANDRA KIELY
LOVED: The duet of You Are My Sister with Boy George.
DRANK: A glass of wine at Hells, pre-show.