It’s a cold, wintry evening but inside the cavernous Carriageworks it’s warm. Two boys wearing mesh tops are chatting excitedly about the artist who is about perform. They discuss the unusual stage props – a massive tutu that envelopes the keyboards and there is a chair to one side, bound by ropes.
The lights dim and to the recorded sound of indigenous ululations, the musicians stride on stage. After performing an all too brief solo set, Hand Habits (aka Meg Duffy) has joined the band on guitar tonight. The drummer smashes an opening salvo and suddenly Perfume Genius appears, dressed in black, he seems to be happy to be back in Australia for his first visit since 2018.
Perfume Genius (Mike Hadreas) has had a particularly prolific period, he has released new music, starred in a short film, published a book (‘Immediately’) and developed an immersive dance piece (‘The Sun Still Burns Here’) that received widespread acclaim. Most recently he collaborated with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
And tonight it is clear that the moniker that he chose for himself way back in 2008 is appropriate. He poses. He pirouettes. One minute he’s like a young Elvis, the next he is Lou Reed. His movements are precise and on point. Like a dancer. At times, I think that he has an uncanny resemblance to Robert Mapplethorpe.
Perfume Genius is all these things and more. The audience is enthralled as he takes them on an odyssey through his music. The love and respect in the room are palpable as we acknowledge that we are in the presence of a genius.
Words and Vision by Deborah Pelser