Goods Yard, Brighton Station
Beautiful, tender, affecting, fragile; a few adjectives to describe the music of Perfume Genius, aka. Seattle’s Mike Hadreas.
For a guy with a piano singing deceptively simple and gentle ballads with minimal backing, his songs seem somehow louder than they are. Songs such as Mr Peterson from his first album, Learning, cry out with Hadreas’s passion and pain. I’ve always been a massive soul music fan and Perfume Genius’s music, despite sounding nothing like Marvin Gaye, is true soul music.
If we want to go down the inevitable road of ‘who does he sound like?’, I suppose Sufjan Stevens in his quieter (and less off the wall moments) and maybe Bon Iver’s ‘cabin in the woods’ album. However, where Bon Iver’s songs, as great as are, to some people sound slightly contrived, Perfume Genius is plainly singing from his heart and soul.
This year he released his second album, Put Your Back In 2 It, to critical acclaim. This wonderful collection to heart-rending songs is like a soundtrack to your favourite tearjerker. The album has the same passion as Learning but is less lo-fi and songs such as Take Me Home are beautifully arranged.
Perfume Genius, Seattle based singer/songwriter Mike Hadreas is the most captivating of performers. At a sell out crowd in the Green Door Store, where I am more used to hearing bands make a hell of a racket, you could have heard a pin drop. Behind the black curtain I could hear chattering from the bar but Hadreas’ intimacy made me feel part of a special club. I felt privileged to witness this flawless performance by a true talent.
There seems a constant flow of ‘singer/songwriters’, many of whom achieve commercial success and yeah, they can sing, they can write songs but they are often missing something and to me that something is soul. True soul cannot be faked and comes from belief, honesty and often from pain. Hadreas, in his early 30s but looking much younger, has clearly felt much pain in his life and that produces the most heartfelt and honest music. Comparisons have been made to Sufjan Stevens and where the honesty and beauty of his Seven Swans album comes from his spiritual beliefs, from Hadreas it comes from his experience growing up as a gay man.
Looking shy and nervous behind his electric piano he immediately launched into songs of true beauty. Flying solo on piano or acoustic guitar or accompanied by drums and synthesiser for the stunning Take Me Home, Hadreas’s humanity shone. It took a few songs before he interacted with the crowd, but when he did his story of his sadness at the shop-assistant’s indifference (at a North Laine shop which will remain nameless) when he bought the vintage shirt he was wearing, was touching and I’ve rarely seen a crowd so totally won over. Glancing over, I saw a girl at the front struggling to hold back the tears for much of the show.
There was a feeing of a geniune bond between Hadreas and his audience. When the end of a song coincided with the clinking of someone dropping a bottle and someone clapped prematurely he grinned and joked with us. Amongst the highlights of a perfect set were his self described ‘gay love song’, Put Your Back N 2 It, when he was joined at his piano by his keyboard player and boyfriend Alan Wyffels, and the final song before his encore, Mr Peterson, which almost brought me to tears.
I’ve seen numerous gigs at the Green Door Store and many tactics employed by bands to how they deal with encores due to the lack of any backstage area. Perfume Genius’s was among the slickest. The drummer and Wyffels magically disappeared then Hadreas simply stood up and sitting down with a grin told us, ‘I’m back’. He then played two beautiful songs including a very short, but heartfelt cover of Madonna‘s Oh Father. One listen to the lyrics of that song tells you all you need to know about where his music comes from.
There is no doubt that Perfume Genius’ songs are often sad and full of pain but sadness and emotion are the essence of life and can bring with them real beauty.
Melting Vinyl is a truely independent promotions company, local people work with us and we keep the money in the city of Brighton, and are very much inspired by the creative, buzzing sunny shores. We are committed to bringing you quality local, national and international artists. The venues we use vary from intimate spaces to unusual places such as cinemas and churches to the 1,800 seated Dome. It’s all music that’s our personal taste and that you want to hear. It’s important to us that the shows are well booked, well presented and ultimately you enjoy yourself.