It’s not often that one of the New York’s art scene legends comes to Utah. But on Feb. 28, Joey Arias will perform with Kristian Hoffman at Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City. For those not familiar with Arias, his quasi-drag, gender-bending performance art has influenced many other artists, including Lady Gaga and he’s been a staple of the New York art scene since the 1980s. His style is shocking, distinctive and touching. Arias’ deep, Billie Holiday-esque voice is soothing and haunting all at once.
But Arias is much more than just a singer. He’s an artist with a surprising talent for showmanship. His new show, Lighting Strikes, will be hitting cities all around the nation and Salt Lake’s show is sure to be special.
“We called it Lighting Strikes because we’ll be all around the country hitting here and hitting there. And lighting is so powerful, it hits and creates light, it’s shocking and it’s beautiful,” Arias said. “I’m so excited to come back to Utah and get to spend a little more time than my last visit. Everything there looks so beautiful and I can’t wait to see it a little more.”
Arias’ show will feature his signature style with passionate vocals and his beyond-drag persona.
“I’m a performer, I’m a singer. I use different elements. And since the ‘90s I started donning the dress. I don’t even need tits anymore. It’s about a silhouette, the essence of Joey Arias. I’m otherworldly, a witch, a chameleon — truly one of a kind,” Arias said.
Moving beyond drag, Arias describes his identity as the Z chromosome. Complete androgyny and performance, Arias is more than a simple drag caricature.
Arias has many film credits to his name and is also a trained visual artist. He originated Cirque du Soleil’s Mistress of Seduction in the Zoomanity performance at the New York, New York Casino in Las Vegas and wrote two original songs for the show.
“I’m an artist. But when people ask what I do, I tell them I am a singer. I think that’s where I am and what I do,” Arias said. “I can’t say I’m a commercial success because I’m not like Madonna or Prince. But I have a great following and I can say I’ve achieved legendary status in the underground world.”
Being a performance artist is a dream come true for Arias and he said he hopes he can help inspire others to follow their own dreams, especially queer youth.
“If I could say one thing to young people in Utah, it would be to be honest with yourself and live authentically. I would tell them to be open, be true and follow what they believe and it will all work out, even if it’s difficult at first,” he said.
Tickets for Arias’ show are $10 and available at 24tix.com.