Antony Hegarty’s voice is something of a pop-culture enigma. The New York Times has called it “preternaturally sustained,” The Village Voice writes of its “rich, deep lushness,” and Pitchfork says that his “octave-gliding trill remains spellbinding.” The obsession with his voice may feel redundant, but it speaks to his engrossing power as a performer. Cut The World, Antony And The Johnsons’ first full-length live album and fifth overall release, is just as engaging as his previous original work, plus it tosses a 60-piece orchestra into the mix. The 12 tracks place Antony in an exposed and elegant state: away from the studio, under the lights of a concert hall, and engulfed in harmonies. On that stage, he soars.
Recorded over two nights in September 2011 at the DK Concert Hall in Copenhagen, the performance contains cuts, some deep, from each of Antony And The Johnsons’ studio albums. Antony’s delicate voice wobbles through each of these renditions, particularly standing out on “Epilepsy Is Dancing” from 2009’s The Crying Light, and “Twilight,” from the group’s 2000 self-titled debut.
Cut The World is full of the crackling vocals and dancing arrangements that have become Antony’s signature sound, as well as the expected melancholy lyrics of abuse, hatred, and love. But before he gets lost in the vagueness of grandiose ideas, Antony peppers in enough jokes and self-awareness to make the themes genuine—as on the second track, a seven-minute speech entitled “Future Feminism,” when the ghoulish singer jokes that he’s a “witch.” “Another World,” another Light track, puts Antony’s voice alone with a piano rather than among the orchestra. The arrangement underscores the lyric, which finds Antony declaring that this world isn’t for him while achingly listing all he’ll miss: the sea, the snow, the bees, the trees. Listening to this record, it becomes apparent why Antony, for the first time, put a photo of himself on the cover of a full-length by his band. There is a 60-piece orchestra to help him execute Cut The World, but Antony is the element that sticks out.