Somewhere, someone dealing with some deep emotional trauma is listening to Perfume Genius for the first time and finding in singer Mike Hadreas a kindred spirit. His songs, while sometimes oblique, strongly suggest he can relate, and what makes for powerful listening on a pair of albums was just as riveting in concert Friday night at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton.
Playing the late show, made later by the previous performer’s refusal to wrap up on time, Perfume Genius performed about an hour’s worth of songs. Backed by a keyboard player and a musician who switched between guitar and drums, Hadreas mostly played piano and sang in a hushed, haunted voice on songs at once desolate and beautiful.
Synthesizer and low moaning guitar hovered at the edge of a slow, repeating piano figure on “Look Out, Look Out,” rolling piano built to wrenching intensity on “Dark Parts” before dropping off, and the keyboard player, Alan Wyffels, joined Hadreas at the electric piano to help play “Learning,” the title track from Perfume Genius’ 2010 debut.
Instead of leaving the stage and then returning for an encore, Hadreas simply ducked beneath his keyboard for a couple seconds after the simple piano lullaby “Sister Song,” from this year’s “Put Your Back N 2 It” (reviewed here), then popped back up to play a couple more.
Opener Parenthetical Girls was as outgoing as Perfume Genius was retiring, and singer Zac Pennington told lively stories between the Portland, Ore., group’s experimental pop songs shot through with sweeping electronic elements, guitar and, on some songs, booming drums. On the band’s last song, Pennington hoisted himself from the floor up to the balcony in the Iron Horse, then walked down a sprinkler pipe as if it were a balance beam to the stairs, which he descended on his way back to the stage.
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