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PERFUME GENIUS @ Chevron Gardens gets 9/10

Perfume Genius @ Chevron Gardens
w/ Mama Kin Spender and the WAAPA Gospel Choir
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

9/10

As one punter so eloquently (and loudly) summed up the performance by Seattle’s Perfume Genius on Wednesday night: “Holy shit”.

Perfume Genius is the nom de plume of Mike Hadreas. As an openly gay artist, his works don’t shy away from tackling serious contemporary issues based on personal experiences. Pain, heartbreak and love feature as strong themes delivered with a powerful voice that pulls at the listener’s soul. Backed by the beefy sound system and always-impressive light show at the Chevron Gardens, the evening was top notch indeed.

Mama Kin Spender & The WAPPA Gospel Choir

ARIA-nominated Mama Kin Spender – being one half Danielle Caruana aka Mama Kin (WA) and one half Tommy Spender (VIC), opening with the resplendent WAPPA Gospel Choir draped in gold robes, made for a vibrant and entertaining entree. Weaving their way through tracks from debut album, Golden Magnetic, between songs Caruana joked of accidental vagina touching and butt-cheek clenching, humorous stories and anecdotes that had the audience fully engaged. The powerful choir, directed by Virginia Bott, accompanied the duo to bring a depth and intensity that was perfectly fitting for the soul and blues feel of the tracks. Carry Me, Deep Below, Underground, Bird In Your Tree and Dotted Line were all lifted to the heavens with the aid of the choir, who gave their all for gospel number Lily of the Valley following a solo performance from Caruana and Spender for Cold Rooftop. Squeezing in one last song, Air Between Us, it was clear Mama Kin Spender weren’t ready to leave the stage.

Perfume Genius

The operatic bars of Choir announced the start of the main event, with Perfume Genius taking to the stage and slipping straight into Otherside, the opening track from 2017’s No Shape. Just as it is on the album, the song built from a soft embrace to be released in a cacophony of chimes, blasting away any notion that this would be a boring sit-down affair.

Hadras teased that they’d play a mere 15 more songs, but by the time they were done, they would deliver a massive 21 tracks, including an incredible five song encore.

By far the most memorable part of his performance was the dancing. Usually one to sit behind the piano, Hadreas has a new-found sense of confidence and energy that escalates his live show to something transcendent. Angelic, fragile and at times appearing to be in pain, he sashayed around whole of stage, occasionally disappearing into a cloud of lights and smoke at the back. His jerky, prostrating burlesque style showed off his flexibility, and the most prominent snail trail since Madonna’s Holiday video. Every so often he’d break the act to flick a bashful smile to the crowd while laughing at an inner joke or knowing he’d nailed the tune.

Despite the energetic performance, Hadras didn’t once seem out of breath, showing off his pitch perfect and impressive vocal range in tracks Fool and Wreath, the later a self-proclaimed “amuse bouche of yodelling”.

Hadreas took a break from dancing to pick up the guitar for Normal Song, which followed into a slightly more subdued midsection concluding with the sweet and powerful, All Waters, plus a brief intermission with a cover of Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Body’s In Trouble, returning to his own catalogue in full force to belt out Grid and My Body.

Tracks such as Dark Parts and Mr Peterson made for uncomfortable listening, dealing with issues of incest and paedophilic predation, both performed from behind the piano, with Hadreas looking to partner Alan Wyffels (keyboards) for support during the later in the encore. These moments drew the audience into somewhere almost too personal.

With a nod to balmy summer Perth nights, Hadreas remarked that it was “nice to be out of lonely and grey Seattle” before launching into the thunderous Slip Away, closing the set much the way it had started: ablaze in light and sound.

Saving the best for last, Hadreas returned to the stage alone to play the dedication to his partner and bandmate, Alan; who then joined him side-by-side for piano duet Learning. A quick band reunion for Hood brought the show up to its climatic finish as Hadreas rose in full theatrical style to deliver the closing track Queen. A salute and blowing kisses to the crowd farewelled the crowd in fitting regal style.

Live acts like Perfume Genius are what people come to Perth Festival for. A chemistry of dance, theatre and impressive music all rolled up into a unique performance that leave you breathless but wanting more.

Q

Photos by Cam Campbell

Setlist

  1. Otherside(No Shape)
  2. Longpig(Too Bright)
  3. Fool (Too Bright)
  4. Wreath (No Shape)
  5. Just Like Love (No Shape)
  6. Go ahead (No Shape)
  7. Valley (No Shape)
  8. Normal Song (Put Your Back N 2 It)
  9. Dark Parts (Put Your Back N 2 It)
  10. All waters (Put Your Back N 2 It)
  11. Body’s in trouble (Mary Margaret O’Hara)
  12. Grid (Too Bright)
  13. My body (Too Bright)
  14. Run me through (No Shape)
  15. Die 4 you (No Shape)
  16. Slip away (No Shape)

………….

  1. Alan (No Shape
  2. Learning (Learning)
  3. Mr Peterson (Learning)
  4. Hood (Put Your Back N 2 It)
  5. Queen (Too Bright)

 

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