Live Review: Perfume Genius, Aldous Harding

17 February 2015 | 7:43 pm | Rachel Inglis

The musical genius brings his show to Perth Festival.

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On the back of a critically acclaimed album, Perfume Genius kicked off their Australian tour to a small audience at the Chevron Festival Gardens – the Perth International Arts Festival’s signature open-air contemporary music venue.

New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding opened with her waifish folk songs interspersed with droll, self-deprecating-to-a-fault between-song banter. Harding has a killer voice, with an otherworldly lilt that elicits a love it or hate it response – is it elfish and endearing or an obnoxious affectation?

As Mike Hadreas sauntered on stage to the opening notes of My Body, it was obvious that Perfume Genius is more stage name than band name. Hadreas was always the focal point, whether settled behind his keyboard or with microphone cord in hand, pulsating as if powered by an external force. He cast a striking silhouette in a black jersey sweater and fishnet tights, even as he admitted it was his first time wearing “straight-up no pants on stage”.

Hadreas’ third album, Too Bright, explores complex soundscapes and showcases the depth of Hadreas’ immaculate voice, both of which translated powerfully live. An early highlight was Lookout, Lookout, a track from Hadreas’ debut LP, Learning. The song illustrated his dark storytelling as earnest vocals urged “look out, lookout, there are murders about” in a way that tightened your chest and left you on edge.

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Standout tracks Grid and Fool held up live, punctuating the first half of the set before Hadreas’ backing musicians left the floor to allow for several solo tunes. Sister Song, from Put Your Back N 2 It, went down well with the crowd before Hadreas was joined at his keyboard by boyfriend and touring band member Alan Wyffels for an intimate rendition of Learning, another favourite off the debut LP.

The full band returned to join Hadreas for the slow-building Hood, with the eerily heartbreaking bridge “You would never call me baby, if you knew me true.” Seeing out the set was the grandiose Queen, with Hadreas’ enduring vocals driving the rhythmic guitar and synth. Hadreas signed off with a one-handed salute as he sashayed off stage, before returning for an encore of more pared-back tracks, including the Belle & Sebastian-esque Mr Peterson. Unfortunately the intimacy of these tracks was overshadowed by the more raucous DJ in the venue courtyard – a seemingly rookie error for a seasoned music venue.