Review: Perfume Genius @ 930 Club
Mike Hadreas, a.k.a. Perfume Genius, estimated that last week’s concert at the 9:30 Club was his largest headlining show to date. As he makes his way across the country and around the world this year, the larger venues are appropriate—No Shape, his latest record, is his most expansive work yet. It’s hard to imagine the magnificence and magnitude of the new songs being contained by low ceilings and a small stage. Thankfully, Hadreas was given room to shine and he proved that Perfume Genius is one of the must-see live acts of 2017.
No Shape opens up like no other Perfume Genius record before it, while still maintaining an intimate connection to Hadreas’ life. After the band took the stage to the creepy strings of “Choir,” they went straight into No Shape opener “Otherside,” which perfectly illustrates the full range of the album. Starting over a simple piano line, Hadreas’ voice is vulnerable, on the verge of cracking, before the instrumentation explodes into a kaleidoscope of noise, at which point Hadreas beamed with joy as he danced and reveled in the chaos. Throughout the night, Hadreas’ dancing was a centerpiece of the performance, as he slinked and shimmied around the stage, feeling every note of every song throughout his body. His loosely buttoned white shirt constantly fell off his shoulder for the first half of the show before he ditched it for good. No Shape sounds like discovery and liberation and Hadreas embodied his music in the purest form.
In the main set, the band played the majority of No Shape along with highlights from Too Bright and Put Your Back N 2 It. It was striking how similar Hadreas’ vocals sounded live compared to the studio recordings. His command made the screams of “I’m bleeding out” on “Fool” an immersive experience for the audience. Though he was without instrument and free to roam the stage most of the night, he played guitar and keyboard for some of the softer songs, which were so intimate that I could hear ice cubes rattling around at the bar from my spot in the balcony. The triumphant “Wreath” showed off the full strength of the band as three voices simultaneously yodeled for the extended climax of the song with colorful lights flashing and the drums beating at full strength. The stage was constantly shrouded in red or blue light, keeping a veil of mystery over Hadreas and transporting the audience into the world of each song.
The main set ended with “Slip Away,” which was only released this year but already feels like a Perfume Genius classic. Singing optimistic lyrics like, “Don’t look back, I want to break free / If you never see them coming, you’ll never have to hide,” Hadreas victoriously fist pumped and smiled with total freedom; his personal celebration was infectious.
Hadreas returned for the encore alone, sitting at the keyboard for “Alan,” a song named for his boyfriend about finding normalcy in what had been a difficult start to life. Alan, who plays keyboard on tour with Perfume Genius, soon joined Hadreas on the piano bench for lush versions of early cuts “Learning” and “Mr. Peterson” played with four hands on the keys. “Hood” and “Queen,” with the full band, closed out the impressive set. It was clear throughout the night that Hadreas represents his art to the fullest. When he’s on stage, there is no drawing a line between where he ends and the music begins. Whether it’s joy or pain, it is 100 percent Mike Hadreas. The night ended with joy, as the iconic line of “No family is safe, when I sashay” was followed by a final exhibition of uninhibited dance.
All photos by Ilhan Alyanak for Capitol Sound DC.