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Earl Dax Presents
Joey Arias in Concert
October 1, 2, 8, 9 at 8 pm
Abrons Arts Center
Henry Street Settlement

Reviewed by Peter Neofotis
Photographed by Lucien Samaha


Having seen the critical and popular success, Arias with a Twist, I had high expectations for Joey Arias’s Concert performance at the Abrons Arts Center when it opened on October 1st.

But nothing could have prepared me for the over 90 minutes of wondrous poignancy and existential exuberance displayed by this romantic, post-modern, transgender wonder. In the wake of the show, I heard one audience member, Penny Arcade, tell her friend, “That was one of the best things I’ve ever seen, honey, and I saw Janice Joplin.”

The magic of the night was threefold. First and foremost, there is the voice of the man/woman. Bordering on the transcendent - it is both raspy in depth yet has the power to hit otherworldly highs. Thus, rather than be compared to popular stars of this century, in Arias exists an element of surreality comparable on an abstract level to the legendary castratos of the past - whose altered hormones allowed both masculine resonance and effeminate grace. As he/she humorously says, “I’ve been through a lot of changes in my life,” and his voice carries with it an extraordinary intelligence that bridges whole worlds.

But Joey Arias is not just a mysteriously powerful voice. His on-stage persona is both the type of humorous, passionate individual that you could listen to all night - but who is also, at the same time, listening very closely to you. At one point during the Saturday night show, someone in the back of the raptured, sold out audience lightly coughed; Joey seamlessly broke from his song and said, “bless you,” and then continued with his chanteuse ritual (as the audience erupted in awe).

Performance and charisma can only take you so far, and the 3rd Ace in this show’s hand is the musical arrangement by Ben Allison and his talented band. The show contains several old standards ("Be My Baby", "Something in the Way He Moves") that I haven’t hard lately (and can’t say I’ve missed). But hearing them recast by these artists made me think that I was hearing them in a way that made these popular tunes finally feel real. And his/her’s rendition of "Strange Fruit" was nothing short of legendary.

Transgender/queer performance is sometimes “marginal” in its appeal - especially in New York. Yet I could not help but feel how even my dear Barry Goldwater-Republican father would have quickly fell under the spell of this premier artist/singer - and been tapping his feet to the creative beats of this magical show. For in Joey Arias and Ben Allison we have artists with a profound understanding of past musical and artistic traditions - matched with an awareness and technical talent to enable such works to become alive and new. Anyone who has ever felt isolate, alone, or scared about mortality should come see this concert; Joey Arias is going to take you by the heart and together you’re going to celebrate what it is to be alive.

Tickets $25 212-598-0400

Henry Street Settlement | 466 Grand Street








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