Weyes Blood At The Fonda Theatre, Thursday, August 8th 2019
‘I would like to give a special thank to Leonardo DiCaprio who is in the audience tonight’ said Natalie Mering toward the end of her set at The Fonda Theatre on Thursday night.
It wasn’t true, but it was a perfect moment, during a close-to-perfect show, while she was certainly making a joke referencing the title of her last album. It was a way to deepen the myth she had built all night around her cinematic pop with a view from her bedroom sinking, she had even called the night ‘a nostalgia ship’, but she really didn’t need to give a star-worthy cachet to her show. Nobody even tried to look around to see if they could see the movie star, all eyes stayed on Natalie because she was the true star of the night.
Weyes Blood is on her ‘Something To Believe’ tour till November to support her last release ‘Titanic Rising’ on Subpop, and her sold-out show at the Fonda Theatre was a real testimony of her growing success. When I saw her just a few years ago, singing in front of a small crowd in a tiny club downtown LA. I remember being quite impressed by her performance and it didn’t take very long for the world to become aware of her greatness.
While she has all the charms of a rising pop star, with people constantly screaming ‘You are beautiful’… ‘I love you”, her sweeping songs have the grandeur and expansiveness of a galaxy. She appeared on stage wearing her floating long hair and an elegant white suit, while her statuesque figure was bathing in phosphorescent pink or green-blue light. There was something majestic about her, something larger-than-life, deep and spiritual at the image of her music, which kept giving me goosebumps with effortless cinematic grandeur.
‘You look like an alien in heaven’, screamed a girl behind me impressed by the scene. Weyes Blood was an inviting and futuristic vision, till a marbled blue light made her look swimming underwater, endangered and fitting the moods of the songs, which warn us about the future while never losing hope and faith in beauty.
Last night, her pop chamber orchestra seemed to have imprinted all the brightest moments of ‘70s pop, swept them into lavish productions which were sometimes booming like a Burt-Bacharach-meets-the-Beach Boys romantic melody (‘Everyday’) with a spacey alien touch of Enya. Her magnificent vocals were shining at every moment, landing midway between Judie Collins and Aimee Mann, and you could even add a sprinkle of French pop like Françoise Hardy here and there, whereas the baroque orchestration was dominating the night.
On the sound of the intro of ‘Titanic Rising’, Weyes Blood and her band made a stage entrance with the sound of the crowd cheering, and, standing on the edge of the stage, she immediately started with the first track of her album ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’, a melancholic melody which sounded incredibly vintage in the most rewarding and stylish way. While concentrating on her new songs, she treated the crowd with a few tunes of her previous album like the ‘70s chamber pop ‘Used To Be’, the spiritual hymn-like ‘Seven Words’ and its emotional bridge, or the deeply emotional ‘Diary’, meanwhile, she alternated between keyboard, mic stand and guitar all-night long
‘Picture Me Better’ had this ancient-familiar vibe, offering many music detours, ambitious and complex with plenty of styles, assembling older pop elements into a rich and modern palette, while her old school croon was effortlessly rising like pure beauty. The wide-screen ‘Movies’, the center-piece of her show and album, appeared like an exuberant pop song with an incredible string-laden moment sounding like a Bach’s suite, sweeping the venue with enchantment. She sang it with a real passion, with an expansive intimacy and a cathedral effect, while her white suit was bathing in green light imitating water, mirroring the underwater cover of her album. But far from drowning, she was escaping and triumphing, while the crowd became ecstatic, screaming an orgasmic joy.
From the beginning, her voice was an invitation to escape before words could even matter, but of course the lyrics were echoing that feeling, ‘The meaning of life doesn’t seem to shine like that screen’, she lamented during ‘Movies’, while pondering about the meaninglessness of life and choosing movies as escapes. ‘Running from my own life now/I’m really turning some time/Looking up to the sky for something I may never find’, she sang just before the hooky and sumptuous chorus of ‘Andromeda’.
After ‘Do You Need My Love’, a wide-eyed desperate romantic one (and a little ‘favorite of hers’), she covered Procol Harum’s famous mid-‘60s hit, ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’, as a way to link her intergalactic built-up to her love for prog-rock, and, of course, the song fitted her voice in a lovely way. She also embraced the acoustic element of her songs during ‘Wild Time’, but especially during ‘Generation Why’ that she played on guitar alone on stage, at the end of the encore.
Named after ‘Wise Blood’, Flannery O’Connor’s southern gothic novel, Weyes Blood mesmerized the audience with a panoramic pop, a swelling symphony contemplating existentialist anguish, the chaos of modern dating and uncertain times. And if the Titanic is a metaphor for our doomed future, Natalie Mering is well aware that the iceberg that killed Leo/Jack is melting and threatening humanity’s future. Tides are very high in her music but the Titanic’s house band supposedly played as the ship sank, so she is celebrating this fatal sinking with a grandiose vision, in the hope we can rise in times of catastrophe, only saved by beauty
Intro (Titanic Rising)
A Lot’s Gonna Change
Used To Be
Picture Me Better
Something To Believe
Do You Need My Love
Whiter Shade Of Pale (Procol Harum Cover)
Bad Magic (solo)