Antony & The Johnsons W/Brooklyn Philharmonic @ BAM, Brooklyn 3/9/07

There’s no shortage of artists teaching the indie kids to dance these days, but Antony Hegarty is leading the charge in teaching the hipsters to appreciate high art. Of course that depends on your definition of what qualifies for high brow these days, but booking a show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and calling in the Brooklyn Philharmonic as your accompaniment is a good start. So is performing your first song in pitch black, gradually increasing the white-light level to retina-scalding intensity by show end. Heart-emblazoned white-on-white outfits are, of course, optional.

The concert’s visual concept was an exploration in visibility, with Antony as its spotlight-kissed radial point. Truth be told, his orchestrally-accompanied hummingbird vibrato was arresting enough, but standing stripped of piano, exposed in form and facial contortion … Antony was pretty sensational. Aside from “Cripple & The Starfish,” “Rapture,” “For Today I Am A Boy,” show-closer “River Of Sorrow,” and a tortured take on Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” (you read it right), Hegarty was showcasing new material. Don’t expect any fistfuls of love from his new direction; as the room and the instrumentation suggest, Antony’s leaving the piano saloon in favor of the symphony. There’s no separating the visual from the aural, not this time. So while we’ll have to wait until we can keep the room lights at a set level (i.e. in the steady, warm glow of our laptop screens) to get a good feel for the songwriting, the concert was one of the best we’ve seen this year. But then, we’re suckers for karate-inspired outfits.