Weyes Blood’s Holy Flux Tour
Natalie Mering glows in Toronto with "And in the Darkness"
WORDS BY MILES FORRESTER | Danforth Music Hall
MAR 09, 2023 | COMMUNITY
Danforth Music Hall - Photo by Miles Forrester
Weyes Blood by Neil Krug
Weyes Blood by Neil Krug
From the baroque balcony overhanging The Danforth Music Hall's cement orchestra, the stage was emanating a midnight-blue membrane—think a gothic emu egg—with fuchsia highlights speckling the drum set and many candelabras. If that palette sounds familiar, double-check the packaging of the latest album by Weyes Blood (Natalie Mering), And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow (AitD,HA). This stage is where the cover's heroine lives during the Holy Flux tour, a high-romantic dreamscape ascending the east coast to settle in Toronto for two evenings last week.
Holy Flux opener and whistling virtuoso, Molly Lewis (whose EP, Mirage, came out last year), undulated her arms with exotica-inflected lounge jazz piped in behind her. The tone Lewis gets and sustains seems more like a theremin or singing saw than human breath. Because whistling is hard to detect visually its effect is uncanny. Was this like the "Club Silencio" scene from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive? Spooky action at a distance? The eerie scenery and out-of-time orchestrations fit the bill: cooing vocals, canned drum patterns from electric organs, and a hauntological sax solo on "Oceanic Feeling"—from 2021's The Forgotten Edge. Altogether, the set had a playfully sinister nostalgia, including original pieces, classical repertoire (Saint Saens "La Cygne" and a bossa nova arrangement of Chopin's "Prelude in E Minor"), and bits of esoteric trivia about the "whistling world" (which, she admitted, could all be lies).
With the band silhouetted behind her in apocalyptic orange, Weyes Blood started the set with "It's Not Just Me, It's Everybody" AitD,HA's reassuring ballad of alienation. In her flowy all phantom-white ensemble, she threw out the video's twirls and kicks, swishing her cape around her patent-leather Beatle boots. Mering has a calm alto which guides the "we" in her songs through desolation, but the wry arrangements (ethereal synths on "A Given Thing" and jaunty pianos on "Everyday") can recast her scenaria as sad, camp, and anthemic. It's good theatre.
When Mering asked if anyone likes Adam Curtis, I could hear an adoring voice intoning this from two rows behind me, "Of course, she loves him." The same voice also insisted Mering had to be a capricorn. Curtis is a filmmaker who uses his access to the BBC's archives to create mesmerizing documentaries on the emotional decline of our contemporary empires. His bespoke visuals for "God Turn Me Into a Flower" was a montage of Mering twirling, majorettes marching, exorcisms, shotgun cops, and Bowie. Without explicitly illustrating the song, it complimented the themes of fragmentation and Mering's best performance that night.
The test when touring a concept album (this being the second in a trilogy exploring our common catastrophe, starting with Titanic Rising in 2019) is to prove that its imagery and sonic world can exist in the wild. "We are all children of the empire," she joked to the Canadians after singing the song of the same name. After determining that Lake Ontario is the most haunted part of Toronto, she demurred that Lake Superior is probably more haunted. Perhaps that's her thesis. Things are bad. The beauty's that it could be worse.