Article and Photo by Sarah Cline
The weather was finally bearable enough for me to justify arriving an hour early to Thalia Hall and so I did just that. It’s chilly enough that the queue is pretty short, but as we inch closer and closer to the doors opening Perfume Genius fans make their presence known.
Meg Duffy, a stunningly talented musician, takes the stage as Hand Habits for the opening act. Duffy has an impressive amount of musical clout (associated with Kevin Morby, Flock of Dimes, Sylvan Esso, Weyes Blood, etc.) and seeing them live only serves to further prove how deserved their accolades are. Most of the set consists of tracks off their 2021 release Fun House, “Aquamarine” and “Graves” being standouts. The set feels like a much-needed powerful release of emotional repression. With desperate sounding vocal delivery and wailing guitar, these tracks grab listeners by the throat and force them to sit in the moment, however painful it may be.
After a short break the lights dim, Perfume Genius takes the stage, and the crowd goes crazy. The unmistakable synth of “Your Body Changes Everything” begins and from that moment on your somewhere else entirely. The performance sends you on a rollercoaster of emotions from the groovy danceable energy of “On the Floor” to the much more stripped back “Jason” and “Nothing At All”, all three of which come from the critically acclaimed 2020 release, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately. As the end of each track nears, the crowd is already eagerly awaiting the next and it’s a pattern that repeats itself all night.
Perfume Genius’ Matt Haldreas is seemingly born for the stage. There isn’t a single lull in the entire performance and at times you forget you’re in a concert hall at all, you feel as if you’re watching some performative art piece. Bending over chairs, writhing on the floor, and cocooning himself in tulle are just a few of the visually powerful ways that Haldreas becomes his music. While on stage he embodies these tracks and as a viewer you can watch the music take control and make itself understood. Duffy’s a touring member of Perfume Genius and their presence on guitar and backing vocals throughout the performance provides an edge to the sound that isn’t nearly as present in studio recordings.
The set closes with a powerful encore featuring “Grid” and “Queen”, both fan favorites off the 2014 release Too Bright. Haldreas leaves the stage as the band finishes their final track and I’m suddenly aware that I am in fact standing in a room with hundreds of other people. As I’m leaving the venue, headed for the train, I feel like I’m living in a sort of movie. We’re laughing and singing our way down the street, and I think that’s exactly how live music should make you feel. If the opportunity presents itself, go see Perfume Genius, it’s a performance that will undoubtedly stick with you.