Thursday, February 05, 2009

Antony, Buster & Dave

As I mentioned in my recent Week In Review post - John and I traveled to the Keswick Theatre to see Antony & The Johnsons this past Monday. The following night, I had the pleasure of, once again, hosting The English Beat in Philadelphia; this time back at World Cafe Live and opening for them was legendary 2nd wave ska band, Bad Manners.

First up, my thoughts on the Antony show. I first discovered Antony way back in the mid-1990s, just a handful of years after he moved to NYC. He was selected to be part of a compilation CD that was issued to celebrate the downtown drag and performance art scene. The title of the disc was "God Shave The Queen" and I did interviews with several of the artists featured, for broadcast on Q'zine (the weekly queer arts & culture show I host on WXPN).

I chatted with Joey Arias, Lady Bunny and Antony and previewed all the tracks on the show throughout the launch month. Even then, I thought that Antony stood out above the rest - not because he was better, but because he was different. There was a softness in his voice that worked as a salve to help sooth the sadness that lied underneath.

Over years I must admit I lost focus on Antony - so I was pleasantly surprised to re-discover him a few years ago, re-packaged with his band and playing Philadelphia (World Cafe Live in 2005). I went to the show and walked away truly mesmerized.

The way he constructs a song; from the lyrics to the use of specific instruments and notes - it's all you can do not to sit there dumbstruck while he performs. When I heard he was touring on his new CD, I was excited to have the chance to see him again!

The concert was powerful! Even with a nondescript wardrobe and simple lighting that kept him in the shadows most of the night, Antony held the reigns to the 600+ in attendance. There were many moments where you could truly hear a pin drop during the evening; it was THAT good!

The following night was also a joy! I was once again asked to MC the return of The English Beat to World Cafe Live. Dave Wakeling is a touring powerhouse of late; traveling the country and performing to full houses night after night! This evening was no different; even while the city was being covered with a blanket of fresh snow, the heat inside the main hall was off the hook!

In the past I've seen Dave and the band perform with peers and with newcomers as opening/support acts. This time Bad Manners joined them - and, as Dave told me earlier in an interview I did with him, he had his work cut out for him with Bad Manners and Buster Blood Vessel taking the stage as opening act.

Bad Manners ROCKED the house into a sweaty skank-induced pulp! They performed for almost one hour nonstop - pausing for (at most) 20 seconds between songs - Buster looks better than ever following his life-saving surgery and recovery and the horn section he had on stage made the band sound like part ska/part mariachi band -- amazing!

The Beat didn't disappoint - they never do. Dave and company performed a wide selection of hits; from both the Beat and General Public eras. I am always impressed with Dave's stage presence - he is warm, grateful and loves his fans - almost as much as they love him.

The room was warm and filled with love - a perfect solution to the cold, wintry mix happening outside that evening.

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