Natalie Mering – aka Weyes Blood – was pleased to be back in Melbourne and performing in the “Ancient Greek palace” that is the Forum theatre on the opening night of RISING. “Do you know Diogenes?” she asked the crowd, referencing the Ancient Greek philosopher and pioneering cynic. “He was an Ancient Greek punk.” It’s one way to silence a crowd.
But between-song patter wasn’t what we came here for. Mering and her bandmates, guitarist Dillon Casey, drummer Jay Rudolph, keyboardist Walt McClements and bass player Allee Fütterer, filled the venue with spiritual lightness as they drew exclusively from Weyes Blood’s two most recent LPs.
They began with the first four songs from last year’s And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow before shifting into ‘Andromeda’, from 2019’s Titanic Rising. It’s Weyes Blood’s best-known song but Mering isn’t a hitmaker, so setlist flow took precedence over the norms that typically govern rock and pop live shows.
The band produced a mighty cacophony to conclude ‘Everyday’, which moments earlier had resembled a lost Barry Gibb pop gem. During ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’ and ‘Something to Believe’, the latter of which opened the encore, Mering’s voice resembled Scott 4-era Scott Walker. After playing ‘Movies’, Mering was presented with a couple of DVDs from the crowd: School of Rock and Her.
Mering introduced ‘God Turn Me Into a Flower’ by saying, “We’re going to play something that’s more my speed – really slow.” Featuring no drums and a swelling synth arrangement, the song represents the empathetic core of And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow. Mering’s vocal performance was terrifically moving, and the lyrical instruction to cultivate softness in the face of external brutality was emphasised by a stark live-action visual from documentarian Adam Curtis.
The show was over sooner than one might’ve expected. It feels impertinent to complain about a performance so perfectly contained, magnificently presented and emotionally rousing. But everyone present would’ve gladly stayed for another encore or two.