LIVE REVIEW: Anohni and the Johnsons at Barbican Centre, London

Anohni and the Johnsons at Barbican Centre, London
Nomi Ruiz courtesy of Rebis Music c. 2024

Anohni and the Johnsons first captured widespread attention when they won the 2005 Mercury Music Prize, surpassing notable contenders like Seth Lakeman.

Classified under genres such as art pop, chamber pop, and avant-pop, Anohni and her band are renowned for creating sounds that evoke a blend of melancholy and elation. After a 13-year hiatus, the band marked their return in 2023 with the release of their sixth studio album, My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross. The enthusiasm of the British public was palpable, with tickets for their second sold-out show at the Barbican Centre in high demand.

Anohni’s journey began at New York University’s Experimental Theater Wing, where she co-founded the performance collective Blacklips Performance Cult with Johanna Constantine in 1992. Before Anohni performed, Constantine mesmerized the Barbican with eclectic movements and a striking costume adorned with deer antlers. Constantine returned to conclude the show with further theatrical dancing.

Anohni amazed with songs from her 2016 solo album Hopelessness, showcasing a smooth, sixties R&B sound infused with world music elements. Her eight-piece band, which includes co-producer Jimmy Hogarth, masterfully executed the set. The set featured tracks such as “Hopelessness” and “Drone Bomb Me” from her solo work, which were received as warmly as the band’s collective material. With the exception of their self-titled 2000 debut album, the setlist offered a well-rounded selection from their discography. Each song was a powerful emotional experience, highlighted by the prominence of strings, percussion, and piano. The performance was further enhanced by stunning and thought-provoking visuals, aligning with the tour’s theme, “It’s Time to Feel What’s Really Happening.”

Anohni engaged the audience with thought-provoking commentary on her family’s immigrant experiences and times spent with indigenous communities. These themes resonated deeply during her performance of “Manta Ray” from the 2015 documentary Racing Extinction, a song that earned her the distinction of being the first openly transgender performer nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Her rendition of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” further cemented her place among music legends like Eric Clapton, Tom Jones, and Van Morrison.

The concert concluded with Anohni at the piano, performing “Hope There’s Someone.” Regardless of the closing track, every song challenged the audience to balance tears of joy and sorrow. With the recent release of the new song “Breaking,” fans can look forward to more new music and future live performances without a long wait.

 

 

Xsnoize Author
Michael Barron 352 Articles
Michael first began writing whilst studying at university; reviewing the latest releases and live gigs. He has since contributed to the Fortean Times as well as other publications. Michael’s musical tastes vary from Indie to psychedelic, folk and dubstep.

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