January 30th 2013 @ Northcote Social Club
For Melbourne act Winterscoats, fresh from his Beach House support slot, only a handful of people were there to see the entirety of his set. James Wallace plays what he describes as ‘orchestral pop’, the soloist loops sounds through his violin and never would you have thought that one man could be so beautifully epic on his own.
A placid, yet appreciative audience sat or stood as Wallace built layer upon layer of sounds. The fact that he could create enough songs for one set just out of a single instrument and his delicate voice is admirable, but you can’t help but hope that as Wintercoats career progresses, that more instrumental elements will be needed for his songs.
As the set went on, the only deterrent you could take away from his performance was that it became all too familiar by the end.
In Australia for the first time and here under the Laneway Festival banner, Perfume Genius is known for his two emotionally charged albums; the lo-fi Learning from 2010 and last year’s Put Your Back N 2 It.
Mike Hadreas, the man behind the moniker and those two critically acclaimed albums also has a reputation for transferring that poignancy into his live shows.
With the Northcote Social Club not quite brimming with fans of Hadreas, those in attendance huddled at the front in anticipation, giving it the feel of a sold-out gig, that is, if you happened to be amongst the throng rather than enjoying your own space towards the back.
It was evident that those in attendance weren’t just merely there to sample some fine music for the evening, but alternatively were well accustomed to both of Perfume Genius’ records.
Opening with the atmospheric and moody ‘Awol Marine’, the song (which also acts as an introduction to Put Your Back N 2 It) ran seamlessly into ‘Perry’.
The track, which comes from Hadreas’ debut album is significantly bolstered by the presence of drums, an element that is a notable inclusion on the musician’s second record.
At best the three-piece recreate the music of Perfume Genius in impeccable fashion. There were few times when the live show didn’t sound just like the albums and on the rare occasion that it did, Hadreas would pull a cheeky grin.
Such is what happened during their rendition of ‘Take Me Home’, where Hadreas failed to hit the proper note. Immediately after the song the musician let out a good chuckle and apologised, “fucked it up, sorry!” Although an audience already won over were more than happy to follow Hadreas’ lead and laugh just as he did.
While past shows have set an expectation that a Perfume Genius gig would hit one with a wave of emotional intensity, the short reality of his tunes meant that it was hard to get caught up in the moment when it had finished just a minute or two after it had begun.
While the length of his compositions should have forewarned such an experience, performing tracks in a seamless manner, as they had done initially, would have cured the gigs slightly frustrating ‘stop, audience claps, start’ nature.
Yet when performing tracks like ‘Dark Parts’ and ’17′, the singer-songwriter’s vocals had the type of sharpness that could easily cut straight to the bone.
It was clear that by the end of his seventeen track set that for some in the audience, he had done just that.
After what was practically a non-existent encore, Hadreas himself solely performed three final tracks, including an impressive cover of Madonna’s ‘Of Father’.
While some appeared unmoved by Perfume Genius’ set, others were noticeably affected by the performance. But undoubtedly, whether you happen to shed a tear or not, Hadreas and co. perform to a level close enough to perfection that the set needn’t rely on emotional tendencies.