Review: Perfume Genius lights up Sydney’s Factory Theatre to help kick off Mardi Gras Weekend

The beautiful, shoe gaze sounds and oft angelic voice of Totally Mild opened proceedings on Friday night at Sydney’s Factory Theatre after Lonelyspeck. They were there in support of Perfume Genius, who was making his first visit to our shores since the release of his critically acclaimed album No Shape. The timing felt quite appropriate, too, as the gig helped kick off Mardi Gras weekend.

With a three piece behind him – primarily on keys, bass and drums – Perfume Genius (aka Mike Hadreas) emerged onto the stage, arching his back and jumping straight into “Otherside” off of No Shape. Though occasionally on the keys or the guitar, for the most part, Hadreas commanded the stage with his voice and his moves.

The crowd – who filled the Factory to likely just about half its capacity – were enraptured by his performance, cheering for their favourite songs, and being respectful and quiet for the vast majority of his set. There were no singalongs – bar perhaps “Slip Away”, which closed the main set and had a few people joining in on the chorus. There was also little movement from the crowd – which felt odd in some of his songs, appropriate in others. It’s shows like this that remind you how much the crowd plays into your experience at a show, because Hadreas and the band really struggled to get a vibe going as a result.

The sound also struggled to soar in the room, which is common for the Factory stage (Beck proving a rare exception to the rule last month). It’s not an easy stage to mix, and they definitely struggled here, especially on the more electronic driven material. Ultimately, as a result, it was the more stripped back music that proved to be the highlight of the set, such as “Learning” in the five song encore, when partner and keyboardist Alan Wyffels joins on and the pair sat on the keys together.

Hadreas also struggled to hit some of the notes as recorded; these are his first shows in a couple of months, though more than anything it’s a reminder of just how vocally demanding his music – and in particular that off his latest album – must be for the Seattle based performer. But for the most part, his performance was extraordinary. The new album thankfully took focus (it was one of my favourites of 2017) and songs like “Valley”, “Go Ahead” and “Die 4 You” were particularly strong moments in the packed set. Lost in the beautiful record, it’s easy to forget the strength of his earlier material, too – and he did squeeze in plenty of them, such as the softer moments like “Normal Song” and “Dark Parts”, with saw Hadreas hit the piano, and “Queen”, which closed out the night and left us all wanting more.

Perfume Genius is currently touring Australia and New Zealand, with shows at Golden Plains, a Festival Called Panama, New Zealand Festival and more still to come. Check out all the dates HERE.

The reviewer attended the concert on 2nd March 2018 at the Factory Theatre in Sydney.