Tales from a Brave Ulysses
XXX. "Antony and Carnegie and Glass"
It was a night of amazing tastes and colors and sounds. A night I was sad to see pass by like a paddling canoe, as it meant the moment was through and dead. Life can be extraordinarily depressing if you think of every passing moment as a dead possum, and your present reality as the driver's seat of a car destined to kill many more possums.
I was sitting in a booth at Carnegie Hall. Perched in the first tier of opera boxes, just overseeing the top of the stage, like a pigeon hanging from a gargoyle over the most pristing blocks of fifth avenue and Central Park. I felt out of place, an anachronism — I shouldn't be allowed in a seat like this until I've become someone recognizable, like Laurie Anderson (over there to the left) or Uma Thurman (over there to the right).
I was there at invitation of a friend (seated at my left) who knew certain people of importance for the Tibet House Benefit concert (on the other side of her). In front of me? Nothing. I have a better seat than Uma (suck on that, blondie). This night I will meet Philip Glass, a musical hero of mine. I will hear Antony (of ...and the Johnsons fame) sing for the first time. I will get extraordinarily drunk on free vodka and talk about I-won't-recall-what with Damien Rice.
Have you heard Laurie Anderson's music? I'm a little too young, but let me tell you that she is fantastic. I see why Lou Reed would want to share a life with her. She's a poet, a musician, an artist. The two "songs" she performed were packed with fantasias of goodness. You know those times when people read a book or an essay, or listen to a song or musical performance, and they say, "It needs more meat to it," and by that they mean it needs a more Meaning, more Substance? (I used to get criticized as a junior high school student for not having enough meat in my essays — I'm sure some Tales columns — this one included — could use more "meat" as well. Let me just extend the metaphor a little further and say I've become a Vegetarian. We'll leave it at that, sick meat-eating freaks).
Well, that being said, Laurie Anderson's performance was nothing but meat. It was the musical equivalent of Susan Sontag theory, or Wagner opera, or watching Dr. Phil get hit by a bus and having his McDonald's-filled body explode into pieces of purple and yellow (meat).
Her performance included a song on which Antony sang back-up, and the words, which elude me in specificity, spoke broadly of the tensions of living in a world where so much hate is required to happen around me, for this one little bit of joy to happen in me, as I'm staring down from my American perch in a Carnegie Hall opera box. It was beautiful in its simple chastising of those who, well, you know. It was the same old song of politics, executed better than ever I'd heard before (a new "Big Yellow Taxi").
Then there was Philip Glass, who played "Metamorphoses II." I will not disgrace it with trying to translate that sort of thing into words. Perfection that the word cannot contain. If the word "genius" contains any meaning any more, it certainly applies to him.
At the end of the evening, I can say this — Antony has probably the most beautiful voice I have experienced in some time. People email me about music all the time: "Oh, check this out..." "Have you heard of So and So? They're German Lesbian Cowgirls. Really hot right now..."
Then of course I have to go through the trouble of listening to shitty Myspace feeds, which are really only worth it for something like this.
So Antony went unnoticed, a name I'd heard attached to good things, like raving adjectives and onomatopoeia following by exclamation points. He played, "You are my Sister," a song which on the record includes Boy George to form a lovely duet.
If I learned anything from the night, it was that Antony and the Johnsons just might be the best thing around. Thank goodness, as The Editors and the Arcade Fire just ain't cuttin' it as being worthy of my time.