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Concert Review: Perfume Genius/serpentwithfeet

Concert Review: Perfume Genius/serpentwithfeet

Mike Hadreas has arrived.

Mike Hadreas has arrived. Years removed from being the shy performer huddled over his keyboard, Hadreas has found his stride, playing sold-out rooms for rapturous crowds as Perfume Genius. Hadreas has now moved to the front of the stage, working his body like a sinuous gyre. Ever since he trumpeted his raison d’être during his 2014 song “Queen” (“No family is safe when I sashay”), something clicked between the performer and his audiences. I remember once seeing Perfume Genius in a nearly empty theater here in Portland, years ago. That isn’t the case any longer.

Over the 90-minute set, Hadreas concentrated mainly on recent records No Shape and Too Bright and the dynamic songs that comprise them. More robust and less intimate than the music on his first two records, songs such as “Otherside” and “Longpig” filled Portland’s Revolution Hall, eons away from the fragile ballads that catapulted Hadreas into the public eye.

This energetic incarnation suits Hadreas, who paced the stage in heels, allowing his loose outfit to engulf his frame as he danced. Whenever Hadreas sings, he twists his face as if every word has to force its way out of his small frame. While the audience cheered and sang along with favorites such as “Fool” and “Dark Parts,” new songs such as “Wreath” and “Just Like Love” also received ecstatic applause. Meanwhile, the sultry “Die 4 You” was absolutely spine-tingling.

In between these full-bodied songs, Hadreas sat at his keyboard and played his quiet, older material such as “Hood” and “Mr. Peterson.” With boyfriend Alan Wyffels seated on the bench next to him, Hadreas claimed that he botched “Learning,” one of his first songs, the night before and felt nervous about playing it again. However, he delivered a nearly perfect version to us.

Although a Perfume Genius show hasn’t changed too much from the Too Bright tour, Hadreas has expanded his repertoire a bit. He delivered an emotional cover version of “Helpless” during a solo segment and even picked up the guitar to pluck “Normal Song.” Hadreas also remarked about a spin move that he did for the first time that night.

Hadreas ended the set with “Queen,” saving the biggest moment for last. The quiet audience finally found a reason to stand and dance, coming to life with rapturous cheers. Although Hadreas’ new songs may not be as wrenching as his earlier material, there is something joyous watching him swivel his hips, carefully keeping his center of gravity balanced. As I emerged into the lobby, an entire group of girls out there attempted to emulate the moves. Close, but not quite.

Opening the show was a brief, but stunning set by serpentwithfeet, a performance piece by Josiah Wise. Possessing a classically trained voice, Wise dabbles in what he calls pagan gospel. Set to the apocalyptic backing music of the Haxan Cloak, Wise used the set as a late-night confessional, one filled with desire, sadness and lost love. His performance rivaled the one by Perfume Genius, a rarity at concerts, making Wise a talent to watch.

    • Venue:
      Revolution Hall
    • City/State:
      Portland, OR
    • Date:
      07/16/2017

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