After Too Bright, the days of Perfume Genius as a “bedroom artist” might seem more and more remote. It’s an extroverted, Swansian album packed with industrial synths, digital voice manipulation and full-band bravado. But Mike Hadreas’ dance moves at The Warhol looked like he’d been practicing them for years in his bedroom to Madonna records (who he covered that same night). So, in many ways, he’s still very much a bedroom artist.
Hadreas strutted around the stage in a goth-black smock and shiny low pumps. No longer the modest introvert behind a piano, he was unafraid to shimmy over to the stage’s edge and scream in audience members’ faces during “Grid” and a cover of Mary Margaret O’Hara’s “Body’s in Trouble” for chilling jolts. It’s a brash, confident tour to support a brash, confident album.
Although, Hadreas and company occasionally flip-flopped between his quiet, honest ballads of "Learning" and "Put Your Back N 2 It" and the flamboyant, assertive anthems from Too Bright throughout the show — and sometimes in a jarring fashion. Since two-thirds of his material is so intimate and personal, striking a balance between the two sides of Perfume Genius can be a tall order. Some noisy, unapologetic full-band songs were then followed by a two or three song block of Hadreas solo-piano ballads. In his early days, a Perfume Genius show would have been one of these blocks extended for an hour. But with an even mix between the abrasive and poignant, it was sometimes difficult to sustain momentum. Nearly everything worked — the ballads’ emotional impact was just reduced due to its short-burst delivery. If Perfume Genius’ fourth album contains more of Too Bright’s extroversion, Hadreas could be able to pull off two separate sets: half solo ballads, half full-band cuts.
But when both extremes coalesced on the mid-tempo numbers — “Fool,” “Dark Parts” and “Hood” — the result was heartbreakingly effective. It struck a genuine balance, and the band could provide gentle accents to some of Hadreas’ barest confessions.
Opener Jenny Hval brought a video camera, long wigs, yellow chains, bananas (one of which she placed on a mic stand to resemble that famous Velvet Underground-Warhol cover) and projections for an impressive set of performance art. Hval previewed some tracks from her upcoming album Apocalypse, girl, along with honoring her back catalogue. Stark projections of a woman pumping up a red exercise ball (likely from the new album cover), swallowing yellow chains and pulling toilet paper across her face played on a small vertical screen. Hval’s voice is an impressive instrument, both in its towering range and malleability — she can shift from soft, quivering spoken-word passages to towering Björk-like extended notes. All in all, a strong avant garde counterpart to Perfume Genius for a Warhol audience.
-- Shawn Cooke