Belle and Sebastian with Perfume Genius: A Review

By Christopher Heide and Francois Nikbakht

Perfume Genius’ performance at The Paramount last Tuesday night stole the show. By set’s end, I found myself longing to be a part of front man Mike Hadreas’ enigmatic world of art, sexuality and self-discovery. Highlighted by strong and emotional vocal expression, and eerie, bone-chilling instrumentation, the band’s performance took the audience into the heart and soul of a growing artist and human being.

Opening his set with “My Body” from Too Bright (2014), Perfume Genius—like a siren—immediately captivated the audience with his haunting voice and alluring beauty. Dressed in a black romper and fishnets while dancing in front of a blood-red screen, Mike’s presence was pervasive and all eyes were incessantly glued to him. The set progression was smart and drew from hits off of all three albums. Intense, electronically-textured new songs were offset by gorgeous piano classics like my favorite, “Learning,” so I found the pace of the show to be naturally engaging.

Perfume Genius’ clear and controlled screams were notably impressive on “Fool” and I was moved by the band’s emotional performance of “Hood.” While the mix featured many introspective tracks from old albums, the set started and ended with new songs that express a new, outward-looking Hadreas. The finale of “Grid” followed by crowd-favorite “Queen” made for an exciting finish to an epic concert.  I was left curious and wanting to see more; to get to know this siren better.

Perfume Genius was the opening act for Belle and Sebastian. While Belle and Sebastian presented a veteran set that was polished, reflecting their 20 years together as a band, Perfume Genius was more raw, emotional and shocking. Both acts performed well, while their set lists presented a bit of a thematic juxtaposition.

Belle and Sebastian’s 16 song set list included charted singles "I'm a Cuckoo", “The Party Line”, and “Nobody’s Empire”. While the setlist was diverse, the pacing of the show was a bit awkward. Some songs showcased heavy audio visual elements that enhanced the lyrical content, while some moments of the show were more stripped down and instrumental. Some transitional attempts at humor were well received by the crowd; others were awkward and fell flat. With that said, ii is impressive that Belle and Sebastian was able to provide its audience with such an eclectic show, with almost 20 years of material being covered. 

A true highlight of evening, the band’s performance of “The Boy With The Arab Strap” was a genuine crowd pleaser. An estimated 20 audience members were pulled on stage by frontman Stuart Murdoch, resulting in an energetic dance party. Murdoch interacted with the crowd remarkably well, showcasing his expertise as a veteran performer.

Overall, both Perfume Genius and Belle and Sebastian produced a focused evening of unique musical styles.