There are some bands that render you fearless: the kind of fearless that makes you risk rock’n’roll suicide in a clunky stage-dive, or want to make wild, copious love to an entire auditorium, or… well, you get the picture. There are some bands, however, that render you quietly fearless, and that, friends, is the most fearless of all. Antony Hegarty doesn’t just make you react, he makes you feel. For this alone, New York’s gentle giant, cocooned in childlike innocence and anguished armour, is worth his weight in gold. And tonight, his effervescent church is in session.
Three years since Hegarty’s Mercury Prize win for ‘I Am A Bird Now’ and the entrance is typically him: he arrives in darkness. He sings in darkness. He exits in darkness. There’s no need for ornamental greetings, no call for spotlights. His angelic singing voice is his only coy embrace, and as he showcases new composition ‘Christina’s Farm’ against the mesmerising backdrop of the London Symphony Orchestra, performing with him on two successive nights at London’s Barbican Centre, the coquettish geisha slowly unveils himself like omniscient Greek god Apollo at an Alice In Wonderland tea party.
Showcasing tracks from latest EP ‘Another World’ and future release ‘The Crying Light’, everything Hegarty touches metamorphoses into an apocalyptic swansong as he flutters his graceful arms under his toga (yes, a toga. Frankly, we wouldn’t expect anything less), like the lost ballerina he was born to be. Hell, he even lends his lamenting hand to Beyoncé’s ‘Crazy In Love’, transforming her booty call into his own do-or-die plea for acceptance.
As you might expect from a flamboyant transgender with a penchant for operatics in a Greek toga, the suffocating robes of sexual ambiguity are always there. “Are you a boy or a girl?” he incants over and over during ‘I Fell In Love With A Dead Boy’, before launching into ‘I Am A Bird Now’ classic ‘For Today I Am A Bouy’. Call him what you will (if you must): boy/man/woman/one-legged tightrope-walker/who the hell cares? Today he is Antony Hegarty: a heart-stealing, heart-breaking diva all of his own.