Review: Sounds and Styles Playfully Collide in ‘Only an Octave Apart’

Costanzo also dazzles in solos that showcase his rich yet delicate voice, which glints and swoops like intricately painted blown glass. Before performing Lizst’s arresting art song “Über allen Gipfeln Ist Ruh,” Costanzo explains that it’s about despair, from poetry that Goethe is said to have carved into stone as he died alone.

If the show speaks to the moment, it does not seem by design. The organizing principle of non sequiturs (“We’ve sung about flowers and water, now how about leaves?”) is charming to a point, though ultimately comes at the expense of assurance and momentum.

Bond, a seasoned stage personality, is at ease riffing off the cuff and ribbing an insider crowd — but feels rather far away peering over the nine-piece orchestra, with a hand shielding the glare. Costanzo’s element is vocal storytelling; he’s less at ease, however, as a co-host, even though he’s clearly game.

Their self-mythologizing repartee (an avant-garde legend and an opera star walk into a bar …) keeps the audience at a guarded remove, while the songs yearn for connection. It’s a paradox starkly rendered in fabric by the first of Jonathan Anderson’s costumes, velvety-soft, floor-length gowns that jut out at harsh angles, like front-turned bustles whose bell curves have been replaced by blunt machetes.

Bond and Costanzo are extraordinary artists, though it’s not until the night is nearly over that they allow us to see them as vulnerable ones, too. “Only an Octave Apart” was meant to be a live show, then an album; the pandemic forced them to work in reverse. They poured themselves into creating this odd and beguiling record, they say, over the worst of the past year.

Now onstage, they seem electrified, their nerves raw and frayed, dazed to be in communion again — in other words, more like the rest of us than they’d dare to let on.

Only an Octave Apart
Through Oct. 3 at St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn; 718-254-8779, stannswarehouse.org. Running time: 90 minutes.