Perfume Genius At The Broad, Saturday June 25th 2016
Do you remember when Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall says he doesn’t want ‘to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light,’ referencing to LA’s cultural desert in comparison to NYC? I know, it was a long time ago, and day after day, Los Angeles is proving wrong to the quintessential New Yorker’s bias opinion, while becoming a leading city with an endless artistic fertility. This Nonobject(ive): Summer Happenings at The Broad series is just another example of what the city has to offer, mixing live performances with visual art and beyond. I couldn’t miss the first installation since Perfume Genius was performing, and if it was another occasion to see him, the whole night had a fun and wild vibe, with even an impromptu ‘performance’ by a few queens on high heels and veils in front of the Broad, adding another layer of debauchery to a very entertaining night. Taking place in the various spaces throughout the museum and the plaza, the evening was also featuring Lotic, Narcissister, Cindy Talk, and performance collective Mutant Salon, all inspired by the museum’s first special exhibition, ‘Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life.’
Before Perfume Genius, Narcissister was a delightful surprise, her performance is so hard to describe because so visual, and narration basically destroys what she accomplishes so elegantly. She always performs with a ‘Barbie doll’ mask without revealing her identity and her sexuality-charged dance-shows focus on feminism. She became famous after her piece ‘I’m Every Woman’ (screened before her live performance) in which she executes a reverse strip tease, gradually pulling clothing out of her bodily orifices and getting dressed. She did something a bit different but utterly clever, appearing inside a baby cradle and mimicking all the stages of a woman’s life, from birth to death, in less than 4 minutes with Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’ for soundtrack. She was doing all kinds of creative changes, pulling all this stuff form her vagina or butt? It was so unexpected that people were watching, fascinated and partially in shock, and when she went back to the cradle as an old woman to transform it in a coffin, people cheered up. According to the movie presentation, she also hangs out with Marilyn Manson and made quite an impression on Sharon Osbourne during an episode of America’s Got Talent… unsurprisingly, she has worked with Peaches, another pelvis-vagina enthusiastic warrior.
After all this female boldness, Perfume Genius also revealed what a bold performer he is, and if Mike Hadreas doesn’t pull out anything from his genitals, the emotion and intensity he drains from his songs seems to be as beautiful as it is painful. Hadreas has a presence on stage which can go from shy and almost uncomfortable to a real fearlessness while all the range is translating through his complex facial expressions, delicate smiles, mouth contortions and painful frowns, grimacing his lyrics out.
There is something completely captivating about a Perfume Genius’ performance, he was once again alternating between raging songs of his devastating last album ‘Too Bright’ and sad piano ballads of his two previous albums, but the dichotomy of the show brought a full dimension to his character, going from the most defenseless and sensitive places to a powerful aggression mode, looking vulnerable and becoming a predator at the next minute. Wearing a white shirt and white pants but red lipstick and varnished high-heel shoes, he was embodying this duality, bold and vulnerable at the same time, like a pure virgin turned whorish.
He played a lot of these emotional piano songs with a quiet and shy whisper, and may be not enough of his ‘Too Bright’ album for my taste, but when he did play them, he fired up the stage, undulating with swagger his body during the smell-like-danger deep electronic beats of ‘My Body’ or the raging anger of ‘Grid’.
As expected the crowd was predominantly gay, but more than ever, I am convinced that Perfume Genius’ music has little to do about being gay or straight,… of course it does, but at the end it is extremely reductionist to call his heartbreaking songs gay piano or any other sexual-orientation term, at the end, all this is about devastating pain, the human condition and the power of human spirit, and such authenticity and sincerity is truly able to move and empower anyone,… I personality want to cheer up at a top of a mountain when I listen to these voices at the end of ‘Queen’.
He didn’t talk very much but after one of these quiet and melancholic piano tunes, he told us he hadn’t made this click with his mouth he sometimes does, ‘I don’t know why I do that, but I do it sometimes,… it would have ruined the song, it’s my gift to you’. But there were many gifts, people were religiously listening to his music, which resonated like profane and sacred hymns, sang by a fragile guy holding his boyish figure with pride.
The impressive howl during ‘Fool’, was acclaimed by the crowd like a cathartic release of an impressive range of emotions running from anger to pain, and he closed his show with his stormiest song ever, the gutsy ‘Queen’, empowering all the queens of the night with ‘No family is safe when I sashay’. And yes, it certainly was a queens’ night, with a bunch of them walking and lying in glitter on the sidewalk in front of the Broad museum, a woman wearing a Peaches suit hanging out in the gallery – the female version of the fuzzy suits worn by Peaches and Margaret Cho in the ‘Dick in the Air’ video – and a man inside the woman bathroom getting a new hairdo,.. yes I saw all this and much more.
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