Antony and the Johnsons Main Hall, Montreal QC — February 15, 2005

Listening to Antony and the Johnsons is an intimate experience — or at least it should be. His voice has a way of reducing the hardest heart into a blubbering mess, which — let's all be honest here — we'd all rather be doing in the privacy of our own homes, ideally with Antony there, playing the grand piano you had shipped in for the occasion. Instead, you must share the experience, which can provide its own kind of catharsis. But when the venue for said occasion is a large white box with ringing cash registers and a capacity crowd that's 80 percent standing room, comfort and solace are not the end result. Antony seemed a bit freaked. This was the third stop on his first club tour ever and dialogue was limited to gushing "thank yous," until he stopped to apologise for burping, noting to himself that he shouldn't drink cola on stage. Antony has a reputation for splendiferous costumes, yet he's obviously trying to shake that and focus on the music. In the process, he's sadly donned a horrid long, black wig that's more Ed Wood than Candy Darling. I can understand that he doesn't want to dress up in what he refers to as his "cupcake-y" outfits, but that doesn't mean he has to dress down either. Antony's touring trio consisted of a gorgeously decorative cello and superfluous guitar, but what he really needs is a rhythm section to bring out the obvious soul influences on his latest album, I Am A Bird Now. With the absence of "Fistful of Love," where Antony's voice is finally set free from piano crooner mode, the set became a bit dirge-y and devoid of dynamics. Instead of soaking up every moment in the presence of such a heavenly voice, we were left waiting for his songwriting to match his vocal magic, like on "Cripple and the Starfish" and the closing "Hope There's Someone." It was those moments we took home with us, leaving the circumstantial detritus at the venue.