Monday, October 17, 2005

are you feeling jubilated?!

Last week E and I attended the Antony and the Johnsons show at Carnegie Hall. I'm usually not so into the more somber side of the indie scene, but E twisted my arm (i.e., "Eric said it's good") so I purchased two center orchestra seats. Then I bought the CD and, as per usual, let it collect a goodly amount of dust before listening. Listen Number One involved a lot of brow-furrowing, "hmmmms," and "that's...differents" as I pondered the cover photo of a drag queen in a hospital bed and the list of really really famous contributors in the liner notes. Well, it'll be fun to go to Carnegie at least... I gave it another shot the night before the concert as a background for the monsoon and perusing my new self-help book. This time it sounded kinda beautiful, and I was more than kinda looking forward to the show. Turns out, unexpected concert nirvana was achieved. The best things are always unexpected, it seems.

I'll stand when I wanna stand
After an overpriced steak sandwich and a $28 bottle of cheap shiraz, E and I arrived in time for the second number of the opening act, a brass band from Brooklyn consisting of Reverends and Deacons and Elders and whatnot. For 30 minutes, Carnegie hall was a Baptist church in Dixieland, and the aging drag queens in the audience were most definitely havin' it. Despite the head Holiness's demands that we "stand UP for The Lord" and "be jubilated," E and I remained seated, looking around in awe and contemplating the juxtaposition between this vibrant band of righteous ones and what was to come--a 30-something gender-bending dude whose songs are more likely to make you cry.

Dangerous Dentyne
After an intermission just long enough for a cigarette and a tallboy, Antony and his Johnsons took the stage. His warbling, falsetto-esque voice that was off-putting at first worked wonders in person. The audience was silent and fixated into the third song--something to the effect of "I Am So Filled With Loneliness." And then I choked on my gym. Like, one of those chokes that leads to an uncontrolable coughing fit that leads to a coinciding uncontrolable laughing fit because you're so embarrased about the coughing. Woops. After a couple minutes I regained composure and pretended the tears in my eyes were a result of the deeply emotional music (and I say that sans sarcasm, believe it or not.) Antony then addressed the audience: "Um, I know I've just played these depressing songs, but I'm really trying to cultivate a sense of joy."

Antony took a break for a bit and introduced singer Jimmy Scott, who walked on stage to uproarious applause. E and I simultaneously made the "are we supposed to know who this is?" face, and now I feel better about that because the Times described him as "perhaps the most unjustly ignored American singer of the 20th century," so at least we weren't the only ones. Jimmy's got quite the interesting bio, if you feel like a little learnin'. Then E and I had to take a piss. Apparently, so did somebody else.

I peed with Lou Reed
We'd already seen Rufus Wainwright in close proximity twice, so we were content with the night's celebrity quotient. But when E and I were deciding when to go pee, and Lou Reed walked past us toward the exit, I knew that it was time. Sure enough, Lou entered the men's room as we approached the ladies'. Perhaps he had a tallboy during intermission too? Then in an USWeekly-"Celebrities! They're Just Like Us!" moment, Lou, a few other bladder-control-challenged individuals, and E and I waited outside the door until the current song was over. We were absurdly giddy about this, and probably very conspicuously so. Sorry, Lou, you're just too fucking cool.

I wanna dance with Shania
The most amazing thing about Antony's voice, E pointed out, is that at times it is so high-pitched and fragile that you're just waiting for it to break, but it never does. Without changing his vocal style, Antony gave a late-in-the-show shoutout to his faves in a cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," and replaced "somebody" with "Shania" and "my neighbor" in later verses. (I think you had to be there, but it really was hilarious.) He, like, Jimmy, has clearly been through a lot of shit in his life, and his songs are so personal and sung with such humility that seeing him get four standing ovations to a sold-out Carnegie Hall was just heart-meltingly beautiful. There are very few times when I get this sappy, but Antony turned me into a big ol' maple tree.

A sense of joy and jubilatedness was officially cultivated.

No comments: