Release Date: Nov 11, 2014
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Vocal, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Soundtracks, Stage & Screen, Chamber Pop, Cabaret
2006 was a heady time for Antony Hegarty. Having spent years as a well-kept secret, his 2005 LP, I Am A Bird Now, saw him thrust into the limelight. That such an album should win so many new fans and awards was nothing short of remarkable – here was a collection of fragile hymns to outsiderdom, sung by the kind of artist that no major record company would consider bankable.
Judith Butler famously and controversially identified gender as “performative” in her influential 1990 work Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Butler’s contention has been controversial, I think, because too much emphasis has been placed upon the root word, with its connotation of acting or falsity, and not enough upon the suffix, which points to the always questionable construction of social norms regarding gendered behavior. Gender and its associate construction of identity is performative in society because broadly practiced patterns of repetition in gendered behavior lead to internalized perceptions of what is normal or abnormal.
Antony Hegarty has no apparent interest in being an ordinary pop star, and it stands to reason he wouldn't be interested in making an ordinary live album, either. In 2006, Hegarty collaborated with artist and filmmaker Charles Atlas on a performance piece called Turning, in which Atlas created carefully detourned video projections of a handful of women ("beauties," as they were identified by Hegarty and Atlas) whose difficult life experiences often belied their appearance, while Hegarty's band Antony and the Johnsons performed a set of their powerfully emotional and atmospheric songs. Atlas directed a documentary about the tour, also called Turning, while Antony and the Johnsons have released a soundtrack album that documents the London date on the tour.
A combination concert film and documentary, Turning is the collaborative work of Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons) and Charles Atlas. Turning intimately documents 13 women and men as they lay bare their childhoods, their insecurities, and their experiences as transsexual individuals. These experiences led them to publicly "turning" on stage as part of the concert film.
When Antony Hegarty stepped onstage at London’s Barbican in early November 2006 to perform Turning, the singer was nearing the height of his popular power. Though it had been out for more than 18 months, his second album, I Am a Bird Now, remained both perplexing and compelling. Hegarty had captured seldom-told stories of gender confusion and romantic impermanence in 10 songs that seemed to breathe grace instead of air.
The ‘live album’ is a curious beast – although extremely popular, you have to wonder whether they appeal to anybody who isn’t just seeking a souvenir of an extraordinary performance they once witnessed. For a live album has to be something particularly special: nothing can quite match up to the power of physically being in the same room as the artist. Antony Hegarty obviously likes the concept of a live album, however.
‘Turning’ was recorded live in 2006 as part of an art performance collaboration between Antony Hegarty and filmmaker Charles Atlas, exploring the identities of 13 women. The resulting album is a heartfelt set that showcases the 42-year-old singer and pianist’s elegant style. Heavily emotive tracks like ‘Hope There’s Someone’ and ‘For Today I Am a Boy’ shine in the intimate setting, but a real revelation comes in ‘Where Is My Power’.
In 2006, Antony Hegarty toured Europe with 13 women, some of them transgender, onstage beside him. Their presence can be felt throughout this live album, lending tracks like "For Today I Am a Boy" a more immediate resonance. "One Dove" and "Daylight and the Sun," gorgeous on record, soar even higher live; his voice is both fragile and immense over sparse, aching instrumentation.
A decade ago, Antony Hegarty teamed up with filmmaker Charles Atlas to stage a concert during which 13 women turned on platforms in silent video portraits. After Antony and the Johnsons won the Mercury Prize for I Am A Bird Now, he and Atlas took the Turning concept on a European tour and shot a documentary now released in a CD/DVD package with an accompanying live album recorded at London's Barbican in 2006. Since then, Hegarty has become one of the most expressive and singular voices in pop, and the issues of trans-feminism and identity explored in Atlas's doc have received more exposure.
??Nothing’s ever quite straightforward in Antony Hegarty’s world. There is no black or white, only a spectacle of grey. Suggestive oblivion, sympathy and sexual ambiguity have been themes in his music for some time, which in 2006 became the subject of an audio-visual study and celebration of woman. The live performance featured the work of filmmaker Charles Atlas and focused on the stories of 13 personalities, during which the (um) new live album Turning began to breathe.