Perfume Genius should have sprayed some of his namesake in the cigarette-scented The Mayan theater on Thursday night.
The smell of tobacco and vape products permeated the air of the Downtown Los Angeles nightclub as Mike Hadreas, under his stage name Perfume Genius, serenaded the audience with a set of dulcet and fairytale-esque tunes. Though the venue’s gaudy, aged decor and unsavory aroma detracted a bit from the show’s magic, Perfume Genius still managed to put on an impressive show with his ethereal instrumentals and strong vocal range.
The show’s opener Big Thief played a range of low-key and basic indie-pop songs – none of which were particularly memorable, considering that each one sounded identical to the next. Adrianne Lenker, the band’s lead singer, delivered an odd performance – her body pulsated and convulsed to the group’s slow and really quite humdrum numbers.
But perhaps the most confusing aspect of all was the fact that they were opening for Perfume Genius at all – their modest and relaxed tone didn’t really fit the dreamy and eclectic musical aesthetic for which Perfume Genius is known.
When Perfume Genius finally waltzed onto the stage, dressed lavishly in an oversized silver blazer with two extra sleeves, the crowd erupted in applause. He immediately dove into the song “Otherside,” singing somberly over arpeggiated piano chords. After he sang first chorus, the drums, guitar and synthesizers jumped in at once, lending the song an almost surreal feel. As the instruments bellowed together, Perfume Genius quickly leaned backwards, like the sonic boom knocked him back.
It’s no secret that Perfume Genius has a fascinating vocal range – anyone who’s listened to any song in his discography has heard his distinctly strained and almost restricted falsetto, often juxtaposed with more operatic low notes. However, it was even more impressive in person, considering the vocal complexity of songs like “Valley” and “Sides,” which required him to slide seamlessly from his higher to lower registers.
The latter song, “Sides,” was one of the highlights of the night – he invited psychedelic pop singer Weyes Blood onto the stage to sing along with him. Dressed up in an all white, disco-inspired outfit, Weyes Blood’s robust and powerful vocals reverberated throughout the tightly packed night club.
While Perfume Genius sounded pretty much the same as he does on the recordings throughout the night, Weyes Blood sounded even better live than she does on the album version of the song. The live version didn’t have the same echoing effects that the album version does, allowing Weyes Blood’s transcendent and expressive voice to take center stage.
Another touching moment took place during the encore, when Perfume Genius performed the song “Alan,” a warm and tender ballad dedicated to his keyboardist and boyfriend Alan Wyffels, on the keyboard. Though he didn’t seem particularly comfortable alone at the keyboard – he really only struck a series of simple chords – the stripped back arrangement, combined with his soft, almost whisper-like vocals, gave the song an intimate feel.
Following “Alan,” Wyffels himself came out to play the song “Learning” on the keyboard with Perfume Genius. The youthful and bouncy song from Perfume Genius’ debut album of the same name was a pleasant callback to the singer’s earlier music.
Perfume Genius closed the night with the fan favorite, “Queen.” The singer brought the whole band back out for the upbeat and heavy song, which featured deep electric guitar chords, psychedelic synths and a siren sounding in the background. The singer danced around seductively, feeling his body and bending over as he sang lyrics like “No family is safe when I sashay,” ending the night on a pleasantly lighthearted note.