Chelsea Wolfe – The Powerstation: June 10, 2022: Concert Review

Chelsea Wolfe makes a powerful entrance on the stage amidst swirling mist and a big drum tattoo. Dressed in black and you sense the Three Witches of MacBeth are working some spells. It’s a cold, windy and wet night outside the Powerstation. All the thunder and light show is in the house.

Opening song Feral Love, big booming sound of Goth Metal and resembling uncannily Killing Joke from the early Eighties.

Wolfe is from Northern California and can claim English, German and Norwegian heritage. That must inform her Gothic Folk Metal approach to music. A prolific work rate has seen well over a dozen albums, EPs and soundtracks since her debut The Grime and the Glow in 2010.

Those three witches on stage who provide the pyrotechnics are Ben Chisholm bass and keyboard/synths, Bryan Tulao lead guitar and Jess Gowrie drums.

Next song Spun dials up the guitar’s wall of fuzztone. You leave me sick/ You leave me reckless/ I destroy myself and then I want it again.

Wolfe’s voice is blending with the barrage on the first brace of songs, but when she starts to wail in the higher tones, she has a powerful soprano, clean and intense like ice daggers.

Chelsea Wolfe

16 Psyche, off her Hiss and Spin album, gets the first big cheer of recognition from the audience. The same slow tempo maelstrom as the first two.

A good turnout tonight. Many Goth maidens present attired beautifully. It’s the guys who shout out their homages to her though. Although many on the floor are reflecting her appearance, Wolfe prefers not to engage with her fans and tends to turn her back between songs and rarely makes any eye contact. She does not do stage banter, preferring to let the performance speak for itself, and I for one greatly appreciate that. She has talked about the struggle with stage fright for many years before being able to subsume that into the theatrical side of performance.

House of Metal has some melodic moments including a keyboard drone which touches on the influence of Martin Rev of Suicide. Eerie and hypnotic.

The Birth of Violence album from 2019 was a quieter affair, being closer to a more familiar Folk approach. The Mother Road is a stand-out track from that and it is a highlight tonight. She switches to acoustic guitar. She has taken the daughter-of-Diamanda Galas Gothic horror out of the voice and the switch resonates with an initial sweetness which becomes Folk Americana. The drummer is laying out a tribal rhythm in the same fashion Moe Tucker did for the Velvet Underground.

As good as that was, Wolfe then hits us with Deranged for Rock’N’Roll, where her crystalline high soprano is matched with Rock riffs and comes off sounding like Indie Pop.

Chelsea Wolfe

This may reflect the fact that Chelsea’s musician father played in a Country band. She has also stated a love for R’n’B which informed a lot of her music in her teens.

Iron Moon and her black electric guitar is back as we get body-slammed again by thunder and slow tempo Desert Storm Metal. Carrion Flowers is dominated by an artillery assault from the drums and the lead guitar’s power-saw drone.

Her voice has become more prominent after the acoustic guitar numbers. On Survive, she is in full flight and would have made a good match for Robert Plant in his hey-day. That higher register is under control and never screams. The guitars screech with metal-on-metal pain and it builds into a finale where the floorboards and the lights all vibrate to a powerful harmonic frequency.

When Chelsea Wolfe does talk at the end, she is humble and genuinely appreciative of the audience. Picks up the acoustic guitar for a solo encore with Flatlands. The witches have left and the beautiful Folk voice takes off in full flight and Joni Mitchell’s presence is there too. A sunny song with some sadness.   

A final blessing for an evening of Gothic passion and ice-cold Fury.

Rev Orange Peel       

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