Photos By Katherine Gaines, Words By Connor J. Hogan
With muffled hair, a Betty Boop shirt, and his signature pout, sex took the form of Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius at the Black Cat. With a paired down band, he started his set with limp physicality and a silent confidence that spread throughout the venue. Perfume Genius is one of those bands that accurately portrays an entire group of people, and yet still has a unmistakable memoir style.
Hadreas not only speaks to the gay experience, but evokes in the listener a sense of longing, and loneliness that everyone can access. “When I can take your hand on any crowded street,” he sings in “All Waters” off Put Ur Back N 2 It, describing a distinctly personal (and forbidden) moment happening in a public space. And this was nowhere more apparent than in his performance Tuesday night.
“I’m really into banter now,” he said with a sly grin, as he sat in front of the piano to play “Lookout, Lookout” next to his synth player. He was fumbling with the microphone, when he just gave up and said “I’ll do it like Tori,” sticking the microphone straight up. Hadreas is one of those performers you can’t help but watch. His joints knees and elbows are constantly switching angles, while his face remains locked in a driven stare. “I was reading a review the other day,” he said to the crowd, “And they said I danced like coke cans tied together. I know I shouldn’t be reading reviews.”
The drone of his voice combined with the delicate piano melody gave the sound a sense that was comparable to auditory poppers. Oh, and if you don’t know what poppers are, it’s a gay sex thing. Wave after wave of vibration washed over me as he played “Grid” off his latest album Too Bright. He played things from each of his albums, which was much appreciated. And, swoon, his encore was “Mr. Peterson,” and I love any song about the love between a young man and an older one.
Opener Jenny Hval is someone I could love on record. Live, it just didn’t jive. She utilized a projection screen.. There were wigs, and hardcore sounds. The performance had a percussive and assaulting quality. I thought I would have loved it, but unfortunately, it just didn’t deliver.
Perfume Genius is one of those bands that knows music isn’t just about technique. They embody that quality of story telling that makes their music relatable, and emotional. Mike, I know you try not to read reviews, but if you’re reading this one, know that this review was a good one.