You can judge a gig by the level of etiquette required. At a festival, you can get away with throwing cups of piss over hundreds of people; for an arena gig it’s difficult to turn up late; at a small show it’s rude to talk whilst the band are playing.
At a Perfume Genius show, the margins are even tighter,and during one of his trademark, pin-drop piano tracks, you can’t help but notice someone at the front, trying to get away with replying to a text.
It’s not so much the clickity-click of buttons adding an unnecessary element of percussion to tracks – not giving Mike Hadreas your full attention feels like an affront to the man. On a Salford stage, many thousands of miles away from his Seattle base and with the backdrop of an oil projector, he sings the most honest, aching lyrics about love and loss. It’s nothing short of breathtaking.
Perfume Genius’ strongest asset has always been the weight of his words, given this heft by the simplicity of piano only backing. Live, that contrast is only starker and more shocking with the fragile voice captured on record amplified by the underlying fear he might break down at any point. Yet the only stops come from Mike laughing at his own failing in managing to mess up simple progressions on his keyboard, whilst his on stage aide – there to provide the most subtle of backings and harmonies – looks on bemused.
While the set seems to last for an eternity, with newer material worked in seamlessly (perhaps due to Hadreas’ chosen style leaving very little room for major variation), not once does it verge on the monotonous. When the duo finally shuffle meekly through the crowd to the exit, it’s to a prolonged round of applause. The subsequent encore sees Hadreas return to the stage alone and feels deserved and natural. But even the promise of two more tracks from the world’s most gloriously bruised talent can’t convince that one man to take his eyes from his phone – luckily enough, everyone else in the room is on the edge of their seats, covered in goosebumps.
Photos by Magnus Blikeng