Antony and the Johnsons at the Grand Opera House, York

A not-so-svelte cross-dressing pianist with a voice that sounds like a fusion of eighties pop stars Boy George and Alison Moyet, backed by a band that seem to be able to play whatever instrument you care to throw at them – who knew that what the world needed right now was Antony and the Johnsons?

Touring to promote the rather splendid Mercury Prize-winning album I Am A Bird Now, their live show does not disappoint, and York's Grand Opera House is a fitting venue for their particular brand of civilised histrionics. Between the occasional cover version – Lou Reed’s ‘Candy Darling’, Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Guests’ – the ridiculously talented Antony Hegarty performs his own heart-wrenching compositions, like ‘I Fell In Love With A Dead Boy’ and ‘Cripple And The Starfish’.

Although these songs of love, obsession, sex and death seem to be confessional, it’s soon apparent that he isn’t here to just spill his heart all over the stage – this is an artist who understands performance. When he sings ‘Hope There’s Someone’, seemingly with tears in his eyes and suicide on his mind, etc. just want to go and give him a big hug and tell him everything’s going to be okay. Moments later he’s absolutely fine, joking about the height of his piano-stool (“It’s one of those things where justs a couple of inches really matter …”).

New York seems to be churning out a lot of camp pop at the moment – just think Rufus Wainwright or the Scissor Sisters – but Antony is at his best playing the outsider. At one point he shares a bit of banter with the crowd, asking them where they’re from. After a selection of Yorkshire towns are hollered from the crowd, one voice yells ‘I’m from Mars!’.

Antony simply nods knowingly and turns back to his piano. ‘Yeah. Me too.’

Originally written for etc. magazine.