Perfume Genius at the Cedar Cultural Center, 4/11/12
With Parenthetical Girls
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Mike Hadreas (Perfume Genius) is a performer who looks
considerably anxious to be facing an audience from a stage. And that's because
he is. The Seattle-based musician is the first to admit that it's an
adjustment when all of a sudden there are people filling his shows. Though he's still extremely shy, the astonishing truth of it
all is that his live performance is unwavering. During last night's show at the Cedar
Cultural Center, he transformed the nuance, beauty,
and heartbreak of his own life into an evocative set that more than asserted
his place in the realm of buzzed-about artists.
The stark contrast between the opener and headliner was amusing to say the least. Portland experimental outfit Parenthetical Girls established a much more involved presence on the stage. Playing to a backdrop of Andy Warhol and other film still projections, zany frontman Zac Pennington worked diligently to channel the erratic musical antics of the experimental rock titans (e.g. Brian Eno) who built the boat upon which Parenthetical Girls currently sail. You have to commend him as an artist because, even to the mild-mannered, seated audience, he held nothing back in his conceptual performance. Not a shred of doubt showed on his face as he carried his theatrics into the audience and around the entire venue. It must be noted that, naturally, it wasn't for everybody, nor was it the ideal space or energy for an aesthetic like that to really flourish.
Though what undoubtedly did flourish was the sound aesthetic of Perfume Genius. As the headliner approached his instrument to play the introductory notes of "No Tear," the audience was immediately silenced and locked in to the small, nervous-looking man at the keyboard. That first song was less than two minutes long, but it was packed with enough emotion to captivate the crowd for the entirety of his set. With an artist who tends to keep most of his songs under the 3:30 mark, there's an extra element of poignancy in their brevity. Mike Hadreas has a voice so pure, so pained, and so resonant that it communicates more powerfully in moderation. The wave of sniffles audible during his stirring rendition of "Take Me Home" is evidence of that.
As a lyricist, Perfume Genius is incredibly personal. It's easy to understand his shyness because in every sense he's spilling his guts to the audience, about his sexuality, fears, love, you name it. Additionally, knowing that much of his most recent album, Put Your Back N 2 It, is about falling in love, it was especially compelling to watch him perform these songs physically right next to the person (his boyfriend/synth player) that they concerned.
His performance of the single (the one with the contentious video) "Hood" was another memorable moment, the delayed entrance of the percussion building Hadreas's quiet reflection to a wistful climax. But really, every song, including the show's final one, "Katie," served the same sort of purpose. Not everyone is capable of engaging with an entire evening of generally depressing music. But sometimes it's not about just being sad, or rather sometimes it's not a negative thing. It's common knowledge that there can be catharsis in a "good cry." In the most beautiful way imaginable, Perfume Genius dares us to explore just that.
Overheard: "Ahhh this is one of those 'couples' concerts. I'm getting a beer."
The crowd: A generation above the "twenty-something" bracket I fall into. And yes, there were a lot of couples.
Random notebook dump: Parenthetical Girls addressed that they were playing at the site of "the great internet riot of 2012."
Take Me Home
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