The male rock star, if one considers a lineage that runs from Jagger to Gallagher, is brash, egotistical, indulgent and in concert is happy to drown in beer swill and choke on cigarette smoke.
Antony Hegarty ticks none of these boxes, yet cannot be mistaken for anything other than a star, despite being too old, sensitive and understated to conform to type. By contrast, he is graced with a voice, presence and charisma that few (with the exception of Rufus Wainwright) of his contemporaries can muster.
Locked behind his piano, he makes a packed venue fall silent in rapt appreciation as he works through a 90 minutes set that rarely raises its tone and volume beyond that of a confessional whisper. These are sad, beautiful songs, which are drenched in strings but sung with an abandon and joy that is genuinely transfixing.
The highpoints of this year’s ‘I Am A Bird Now’ are met with polite, anticipatory applause. ‘My Lady Story’, ‘Spiralling’ and ‘You Are My Sister’ all succeed in adding colour to their recorded versions, even if it is a dark shade of blue.
The cover versions are equally instructive. Moondog’s ‘All Is Loneliness’, Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Guests’ and a stunning finale in the form of Lou Reed’s ‘Candy Says’ are all skilfully adapted to the mood of the event, yet make for another of Hegarty’s many contradictions. In choosing male writers, he avoids the obvious female influences on his own voice and work.
It is this continual confounding of expectations and pursuing an utterly singular path that make Antony a bona fide star, exemplified by the one new song, ‘Trust Your Mother.’
The only disappointment is the venue: built for bombastic rock and the accompanying response, some of the subtlety of the music is inevitably lost in the clamour of beer selling.