Perfume Genius played his largest ever show at the 2,500 capacity Royal Festival Hall in London on Wednesday night (June 10).
Having last performed in the capital city at the considerably smaller Islington Town Hall in November 2014, the Seattle-based singer – real name Mike Hadreas – returned for a near sell-out gig at the Southbank venue. The performance followed on from recent festival appearances at Coachella and Primavera Sound in Barcelona and comes at the tail-end of his ‘Too Bright’ album cycle, with his third album released in September of last year.
SEE MORE: NME REVIEW – Perfume Genius – ‘Too Bright’
“This is the first time I’ve done one of these type of sit-downs show,” Hadreas said of the grand setting, comparing it to “a weird assembly hall” before adding: “I promise to make it weird and uncomfortable, for me and for you.”
Hadreas – clothed head to toe in black, equipped with glossy high heels – was backed by a live drummer, synth player and guitarist – with Los Campesinos! member Tom Bromley on the latter instrument.
Set to an impressive backdrop, the stage lights switching from a blanket of red for opening track ‘My Body’ to blue and finally green for following numbers ‘Long Pig’ and ‘Fool’. Hadreas’ fourth track in – ‘Dark Parts’ – brought the first big surge of applause of the night, as the band played the ‘Put Your Back N 2 It’ track as Hadreas moved about the stage confidently.
‘Lookout’ saw things slowed down slightly, with Hadreas taking a place at the centre of the stage, behind a piano draped in crisp white cloth. With Hadreas signalling for a “little less piano”, gold spotlights project snowflake-like patterns across the stage.
Taking to his feet again for a cover of Margaret O’Hara song ‘Body’s In Trouble’, Hadreas delivered deafening yelps that echoed around the entire theatre, filling the instrumental interludes with interpretive dance moves. Hadreas’ performance continues with the same intensity for ‘Grid’, screaming into the microphone as he’s backed by jarring samples of child-like singing.
Slight technical difficulties at the start of ‘Thing’ delayed proceedings for a few minutes, with Hadreas biding his time by eerily stalking the edge of the stage, glaring at the crowd with a menacing grin. Following his performance of the track, he told the crowd: “That song was whingy, I was asked not to include it in the album. I didn’t, but it was my choice. I listened to them but it was my choice”.
Reading through his setlist, Hadreas decided against playing one particular song, skipping straight to ‘Take Me Home’. “The next song is nasty,” he warned the audience, before turning to his band: “Let’s play the nasty song.” Hadreas sang “I’ll be so still for you. Like a dead dog. Lay there ’til my eyes pop. All for you”, as the rendition concludes with a clattering of drums.
Taking a seat behind the piano once again, Hadreas removed his earpiece to deliver his first lone performance of the night on ‘Sister Song’, before being joined on his piano bench by synth player Alan Wyffels for debut album’s title-track ‘Learning’. Laughing coyly as the pair shared a joke under their breath in such cramped settings, Hadreas apologised for his offbeat stage presence: “My banter is really knocking it out of the park tonight!”
Following an emotional rendition of ‘Hood’, which saw Hadreas looking up towards those seated in the upper balconies as he sang: “You would never call me baby, if you knew me truly”, the lights raise on the audience and the singer remarks: “This is our biggest ever show and I can see you all now, so thank you.”
After expressing his admiration for support act, Norwegian musician Jenny Hval, Hadreas delivered the show’s highlight with a feverish performance of ‘Too Bright’ single ‘Queen’. Bowing, waving and saluting the crowd, the singer exited the stage momentarily before returning for a quick-fire encore of ‘Write To Your Brother’, ‘Me Peterson’ and ‘All Along’.
Perfume Genius played:
‘Body’s in trouble’
‘Take Me Home’
‘Write To Your Brother’
Perfume Genius will return to the UK later this month for Glastonbury Festival, which runs at its traditional home of Worthy Farm, Somerset between June 24-28.