Live Review, 3/21/12: Perfume Genius Sheds a Tear at Cafe Du Nord

Categories: Last Night

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Perfume Genius at Cafe Du Nord last night.

Perfume Genius
Parenthetical Girls
March 21, 2012
Cafe du Nord

Better than: Drinking your own tears to survive.

It's usually the performer who makes the audience emotional at concerts, but Mike Hadreas, better known by the stage name Perfume Genius, suffered from a little leaky eye last night at Cafe du Nord, the first stop on a four-week tour for his latest album Put Your Back N 2 It. The Seattle songwriter is known for his intimately raw lyrics, but to see him perform them up close is surprisingly comfortable. He doesn't look to be paying attention, yet is painfully aware of everything -- and the same could be said for his music. His subject material is biographical though not always about himself, and at times, even on stage, it's difficult to distinguish whether Hadreas is the voyeur or the exhibitionist.

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"Man I'm going through it, I'm taking you through it. You'll need to stop holding hands over there, you're making me cry," he said after singing "Normal Song," kind of a "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" for the damaged, with a marching melody that would work for slow dancing. For someone who write lines like "I will take the dark part of your heart into my heart," which is about his mother, Hadreas' delivery is eerily controlled, and there's nothing immature about the places Hadreas takes his listeners. His performance, though intense, is far from maudlin. His voice doesn't quiver, but the music, performed live with the help of two other musicians (and with Hadreas switching back and forth between acoustic guitar and keyboards) moves from barely-there to cinematic.

After playing a deeply felt rendition of "Hood," about hiding the depths of your inner world, Hadreas obliged the audience member who demanded to hear it again. One of the only times he cracked a smile, the slight, delicate singer indulged the packed room with a live record-on-repeat experience -- a dark doo-wop moment -- and joked that he had a hit single. "Sometimes I play shows and it's really nice when people are quiet, but they don't know if they should clap. That was really nice," he said.

You can see why Hadreas is often compared to Elliott Smith -- the tender voice and tortured soul. But unlike Smith, on just his sophomore album, Hadreas has already shown a more positive outlook, preaching the gospel of forgiveness for yourself and others, living and letting go. He's all that and more, stitched on a mascara-stained hankie.

Critic's Notebook

Icing on the cake: Tour openers Parenthetical Girls played an incredible set. Frontman Zac Pennington swung form the rafters and ended the set on his back in the audience.

Quote of the night: "You don't want me to sign it, you won't be able to wear it." -- Zac Pennington selling T-shirts

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Cafe Du Nord

2170 Market, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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