What was that? The question on my mind after attending Anohni’s show in Berlin. Was that a concert? Was it performance art? It was good! But was it enjoyable?
My previous experience with Anohni was when she still called herself Antony (Hegarty) and she performed at the beautiful Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, joined by its world famous orchestra. A breathtaking concert featuring many classic Antony & The Johnsons songs. I was blown away by Antony’s voice and her live interpretation of the song. The difference between that show in Amsterdam a couple of years ago and the latest concert in Berlin, is a difference of night and day. With Berlin representing the ‘night’ part in that metaphor. Not necessarily in a negative way. It was just… different.
It’s weird to go to a concert where you don’t see the artist. Anohni was covered in something that can only be described as a crossing between a burqa and a bee-keeper’s outfit. Which means we didn’t see her face, at all. On stage at both sides were two MacBooks, controlled by raincoated DJ’s. Centerpiece was a huge video screen. The show opened with fifteen minutes of footage of Naomi Campbell dancing to inaudible music. It caused for a rather uncomfortable vibe among the audience. What is this? And where is the star?
The stars were on the video screen. Portrayed there were close-ups of a variety of women of different cultural backgrounds. Beautiful faces who mouthed the words that Anohni was singing live. More often than not, the video models had tears streaming down their faces at the end of the song. Incredible intimidating to see, beautiful yet shocking.
And what about the songs? Those who came hoping to hear Antony & The Johnsons classics Cripple And The Starfish, I Fell In Love With A Dead Boy or their cover of Beyonce’s Crazy In Love, went home disappointed. The show featured exclusively music from Anohni’s new album Hopelessness. As the title gives away, not a very happy album. In one hour, all the world’s misery was thrown at the audience: rape, murder, drones and dying forests. I went home not disappointed, but confused. I came to see a concert, I left having seen a piece of performance art. Not my usual after-concert high, but a silent contemplation of this world’s hopelessness. I prefer to be left with a glimmer though.