Review :: Perfume Genius at The Famous Spiegeltent

January 31st 2013

Running from heavy rain into a steamy Spiegeltent seemed like the perfect way to start a set by singer/ songwriter Mike Hadreas, performing as Perfume Genius. You see, this was the sort of gig that teenagers dream about. In the land of nod, pubescents would listen to Hadreas playing in a magical tent on a first date. As large, wet drops fell outside they would suck in their first kiss and, afterwards, chat for hours on a soaking swing set. Even though I mopped my first kiss over a decade ago, I was still charmed by the Seattle songster.

Hadreas’ presence on stage was captivating, his voice wonderful. Hadreas was also entirely self-aware of his melancholic mumbo-jumbo. “Thanks for coming in this weather,” he said early in the set. “It kind of suits me.” He was unpretentious and genuinely grateful to the audience. At one point Hadreas belted out a great siren, which was followed by teenage unease and apology. “That squeal thing I did, it sounds awesome up here, but I don’t know how it sounds down there,” he said. To me, this was endearing.

The songs seeped into one another, many recounting torment and love lost. Hadreas sure played with his heart on his stage. In the middle of the set, he told the packed tent, “If I get really into it, I stop. Sorry.” And we could feel that: he was reminded of powerful moments in these tunes.

Yet, despite being engaged throughout the hour and fifteen minute show, I felt that some of the set was unpolished. At times the songs ended abruptly, for example. Plus a change of tone, perhaps upbeat, would have been refreshing. Instead, we were fed a solid diet of sorrow, finishing up with Neil Young’s “Helpless”. It was appropriate, no doubt, but a sneaky cover of Mariah’s “Always Be My Baby” – or something to that effect – wouldn’t have gone astray.


Wendy Zukerman hosts Up & Atom every Tuesday on Up For It with Sally Knight – follow her @wendyzuk


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