Undeniably personal
Perfume Genius - Live At St Pancras Church, London

The music created by Mike Hadreas, better known as Perfume Genius, is undeniably personal. It's his ability to share this personal feeling in such a lucid, intimate way that’s really remarkable though. And tonight's setting, the diminutive St Pancras Church, only serves to make this even more palpable.

Cate Le Bon, in support, sets the scene. She’s solo tonight, and self-assured. Her voice is diverse and powerful – maybe a little too powerful at times – but her performance is honest and, ultimately, charming.

Perfume Genius follows. Hadreas is joined by two others on stage tonight, and they launch immediately into a big, dramatic version of ‘Gay Angels’. It’s already clear that something’s changed since the days of debut album ‘Learning’. The fragility and evident pain that characterised that album and performances at the time all remain, but there’s also a degree of gained strength, of determination. It’s evident on this year’s album, ‘Put Your Back N 2 It’, and it’s on display here.

The next track, ‘No Tear’, offers further proof – beautiful and controlled, with the line: “I will carry on, with grace / Zero tears on my face”.

This, together with the haunting, sad ‘Lookout, Lookout’, are no preparation at all for the onslaught of ‘Dark Parts’. It’s uplifting to start, and builds to a defiant crescendo, before plunging into its heart-wrenching conclusion, Hadreas repeating the line “I will take the dark part of your heart into my heart.” Like so many of his tracks, it’s over almost too soon – tightly constructed, and all the more poignant for it.

Hadreas transforms between tracks. The visible anguish that accompanies his singing disappears, and he becomes momentarily perky, smiling and joking before launching into another devastating two minutes of song.

‘Normal Song’ is one such track, for which Hadreas exchanges keyboard for guitar. Another perfectly-formed but fleeting moment comes a few tracks later, with ‘All Waters’. He delivers much of this, one of the undeniable high points of the set, with eyes closed.

Alan Wyffels joins Hadreas at the piano next for ‘Learning’. What follows immediately afterwards is another highlight of the evening: the slowly-building, magnificent ‘Hood’.

‘Sister Song’ concludes the set, as it does the new album, elegantly and simply, as the band leaves the stage for no more than a moment, before returning to perform ‘Mr Peterson’. There’s a glimpse of the more vulnerable Perfume Genius of old here, making that gained confidence of the rest of the night seem all the more vivid.

And with that, Hadreas is left alone on stage to perform unreleased track ‘Katie’. It’s quiet and sad, affecting, reaches its conclusion, and then it’s done. And then he, too, leaves the stage.

It feels a bit unfinished - not quite the release the audience might have had – but there have been plenty of other satisfying moments tonight. While the band is all wrapped up in under an hour, it certainly hasn’t felt as brief as that. And there can’t be anyone in this church that hasn’t been drawn in by what has ultimately been a moving and finely-honed performance.

Words by Clinton Cawood
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