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Jehnny Beth At Zebulon, Tuesday, September 13th, 2022

Jehnny Beth
Jehnny Beth At Zebulon

Jehnny Beth arrived on stage wearing a sexy black skirt, high black heels, and a white shirt reading the provocative juxtaposition “Sexual Intellectual.” With her short hair short combed backward and a magnetic stare, she was full of contradictions: her petite stature inspired the authority of a giant, and for the entire show, I didn’t know if she wanted to be a lover or an aggressor. On Tuesday night, Beth gave an intimate show at Zebulon, a probable warm-up for Primavera Sound this weekend, and her performance could not have been more intense and electrifying.

She delivered a one-hour set with a rare urgency and visceral energy. It’s clear that she knows how to raise hell in a minute, and nobody would dare to mess up with her. However, she did aggression with the most tender gestures, as she was constantly touching everyone’s hands.

In 2020, the cult UK post-punk band Savages’ lead singer released “To Love Is To Live,” and this solo debut was, of course, the bulk of the show, complemented by a few surprises. The music was pulsating like the white strobe lights constantly hitting the stage, and every song was releasing some intense, sometimes aggressive, emotions – “Cause I was raised Catholic/And they teach you it’s bad form to think/Man is a piece of shit,” she sang during her first angry song, “Innocence.”

Surrounded by her long-time partner Johnny Hostile on bass and Malvina Meinier on synths, it was all about evocative even cinematic atmosphere and industrial textures, often as harsh as the lyrics. Meanwhile, her voice could be reduced to a creepy whisper, or soared over an ecosystem of unidentifiable sounds, and buzzing synthetic textures.

At the third song, the more ethereal “We Will Sin Together,” she dumped her heels and fearlessly climbed over the crowd, during one of the most intense moments of the show. She has to be one of the most confrontational performers you can imagine. Soon the audience was screaming “More Adrenaline,” (the title of the next song) to accompany the throbbing cacophony of sounds and emotions. The spectacle was often disorienting, driven by a punk hardcore frenzy, and brutal energy while Beth’s voice could sound vulnerable and defiant at the same time. “Flower,” which she performed facing her female musician (so not the crowd this time), had the catchier and poppier chorus of the night: “She loves me and I love her/I’m not sure how to please her/ How to touch her.” After the techno-dancefloor-oriented “New World,” she was back to her confrontational side during the hard-hitting and lyrically provocative, “I’m The Man,”… “There’s no bitch in town/Who doesn’t understand/How hard my dick can be.” The crowd became ecstatic especially because this was followed by a Nine Inch Nails cover, “Fuck You Like an Animal,” whose powerful and savage tone was perfectly matching the tone of the evening.

Jehnny Beth is a hell of a performer since an artist rarely manages to capture such an array of human emotions as she effortlessly did on Tuesday night. She flirts with extremes, lust, fear, rage, and love, embodies ambiguity, raises tension, visits uncomfortable places with a bold appeal, but always triumphs. No wonder famous musicians love her…I spotted QOTSA’s Joshua Homme, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, and comedian/musician Reggie Watts in the crowd.

Setlist
Innocence
Heroine
We Will Sin Together
More Adrenaline
God Is That U?
How Could You
You So Pretty
Flower
New World
I’m The Man
Fuck You Like an Animal (NIN cover)

 

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