For a fun thought experiment, try to imagine someone stumbling into the middle of an Autre Ne Veut show and having no idea what the guy is all about it. They’d see a man dressed in hip-hop garb (backwards hat, saggy pants, hoodie draped over his shoulders like a shawl) writhing about the stage, face in an eternal grimace as he wrings every last drop of emotion out of pretty much every other word. The music behind him, meanwhile, is an odd mix of jarring tempos and big, sing-along choruses. It ought to be absurd — camp at best. And yet somehow, as a sold out Bowery Ballroom found Monday night, it works. Better than that: it’s transcendent, cathartic, and a wonder to behold.
With a crack backing band, the man born Arthur Ashlin went full throttle from the first song at Bowery and never relented. Material from his new record, Age Of Transparency, slotted nicely next to standouts from 2013’s celebrated Anxiety, including “Counting” (on which Ashlin himself rapped the Mykki Blanco part from the remix), “Ego Free Sex Free”, and encore offering “Play By Play”.
The night’s biggest moment, however, may have been Transparency’s closing track “Get Out”. Here Ashlin ran the gamut, from agony to ecstasy, building to several crescendos before emerging from the din triumphant, leaving only his voice and a capacity crowd reduced to awed silence.