Perfume Genius and Aldous Harding – A Night of Heartbreak and Musical Recovery

Aldous Harding & Perfume Genius – Silo Park  March 15, 2018

Three days after King Krule’s wet Auckland debut, grey clouds had threatened another Auckland Arts Festival show but thankfully the rain gods withdrew their ominous threat of damp conditions and blessed us with a glorious evening of weather which was blessed with music befitting from Aldous Harding and Perfume Genius.

Perfume Genius is the experimental art pop project of Seattle’s Mike Hadreas. Currently promoting his fourth critically acclaimed album No Shape, Perfume Genius was making his second appearance in Auckland, his first being a small but well received show at the late King Arms three years ago. Jumping from such a small venue to a large outdoor stage at Silo Park was an ambitious leap I thought would take Perfume Genius a while to accomplish, but tonight he proved me wrong.

Included on the bill was New Zealand’s own queen of Gothic Folk, a fellow collaborator of Perfume Genius and one of my personal favourites, Aldous Harding. Last year Harding released the critically acclaimed album Party under British label 4AD.  After extensive touring throughout America and Europe, Aldous Harding sadly announced she was cancelling the rest of her 2018 European dates, making tonight’s show one of her last (as well as a show at WOMAD in New Plymouth this weekend).

For any New Zealander, seeing Aldous Harding live is something I completely recommend; I attended her show at Auckland’s Civic Theatre last year and I was blown away by the performance, making it one of my favourite concerts of the year (and ever) so seeing her tonight was something I eagerly anticipated.

The idea of an Aldous Harding and Perfume Genius double bill show was perfect. From the moment it was announced, I knew I had to be there, so there I was.

To my surprise, the evening began with Perfume Genius and not Aldous Harding. His three piece band took to the stage whilst being accompanied by loud drone. After this, they went straight in to opening track from No Shape, Otherside. The soft piano twinkle gave way for Hadreas to announce his presence

From the side, the silhouette of the man himself appeared and took a hold of the mic, a tortured artist in all his glory and performing for those who admired him the most.

Dressed like a circus ringmaster with plans to go out dancing after work, he danced his way around the stage with beautiful and flexible moves while displaying his incredible voice.

Playing a forty minute set, he ripped through hits from No Shape and its predecessor Too Bright, tracks such as Wreath and Just Like Love were what engaged the crowd the most while they waited for his most popular song Queen.

Perfume Genius is truly a beautiful performer, and an astonishing musician. Watching him was taking me away and putting me in some magical trance, I was loving every minute of his set.

Unsurprisingly, Perfume Genius announced he was bringing out a special guest to join him for two tracks.

“I wonder who it could be?” I thought to myself.

Surprise surprise, it was Aldous Harding.

The two are a musical match made in heaven although their stage presences are hugely different they truly compliment each other.

After one duo performance from the two, they were assisted by Perfume Genius’s backing band for Sides, a track which features Weyes Blood but understandable Harding would be singing her final solo verse.

Ending the set with his biggest track Queen, the audience remained in awe including myself. If there’s one performer I recommend seeing, It’s Perfume Genius.

After a long set up, It was Aldous Harding’s turn to amaze the audience.

Starting the set waiting for silence, I began to grow annoyed by the people surrounding me, a group behind me seemed to be more interested in discussing what flavour e-liquid they had in their Vaporizers while others were talking about their jobs or sharing laughs.

Starting off with I’m So Sorry from Party in classic Aldous fashion, I was thinking too much about how the Silo Park stage was not a right fit for her. Sitting in a cozy seat at the Civic theatre was a more suitable vibe for a Harding concert but nevertheless she was still spectacular.

Harding nearing the end her set, then received a bit of help from Perfume Genius, together they performed Swell Does The Skull and then the beautiful Imagining My Man.

But she wasn’t done yet, of course there was an encore. Announcing that after these two last New Zealand shows, she would be going away for a long time, recording the next album I assume.

Playing the same set as previous shows, she tore through all my favourite tracks from  Party such as Blend, Party and What If Birds Aren’t Singing, They’re Screaming. I can’t complain about the setlist, she hasn’t released any new music in the four months since I last saw her so it was fair for her to play few unreleased tracks Pilot and There’s Nobody In Heaven (debut), regardless they sounded great and I’m looking forward to their release.

Aldous is still the beautiful performer she was when I first saw her, and if I could change anything it would be the Venue. Perfect for Perfume Genius but Aldous should remain in the theatres.

The double headline show was a great way to spend a Thursday evening and I think those who also attended the show could say the same thing.

Perfume Genius proved he was worthy of a venue upgrade since his last Auckland appearance, maybe next time he returns he can get an even bigger venue.

Jonathan Strock

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk: