Antony and the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra | The Auditorium, Rome | 28 July, 2009

After his sell out performance at Sala Santa Cecilia in March this year, Antony Hegarty was back at the Auditorium, Parco della Musica on Tuesday evening in one of the most eagerly anticipated appointments of the Luglio Suona Bene calendar. Rather than appearing with his usual band, the Johnsons, this time he was accompanied on the Cavea stage by the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra - under the direction of Johnsons stalwart Rob Moose, with another Johnsons regular, Julia Kent, as guest performer on cello. The performance was one of a small number of very special shows during a Summer Symphony Tour which sees both old and new songs by Antony and the Johnsons presented in a totally new way with orchestral arrangements developed by Antony and long term collaborator Nico Muhly, who also worked on the orchestral scoring of the last album The Crying Light. This exquisite album was well represented in the set list - the haunting Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground and a devastating Another World, as well as Dust and Water and Everglade, and the title track The Crying Light itself as the encore.

As is usual in an Antony concert there were also some brand new songs - tantalising live performances that may, or may not, make it to a recording session in the future - such as the exhilarating Salt,Silver,Oxygen and the hypnotically beautiful Christina’s Farm - as well as the often played but ne’er recorded Everything is New. It was also thrilling to hear Antony’s take on BeyoncĂ©'s Crazy In Love - we were quite some way into the song before I clicked that this was what he was singing “Got me hoping you'll page me right now” isn’t a typical Antony lyric, but as ever, he made the line his own! Of the earlier recordings Cripple and the Starfish stole the show with a stunning arrangement that made one feel this already wonderful song had finally found its definitive reading.

As I said in my last review, Antony is an artist at the very height of his powers – both vocally and creatively - and this concert, the fourth time I’ve seen him perform, reconfirmed to me that he is indeed, one of only a handful of artists that one feels privileged to be alive at just the right moment in time to hear them sing live… one of those artists truly touched by genius. Unmissable every time!