On Sept. 27, a fantastic night at the Rialto Theatre began with a series of sounds more akin to jet engines than music, but very quickly evolved into a formidable series of performances. Natalie Laura Mering, better known by her moniker Weyes Blood, performed some of her finest work to date and amazed the audience that came to see her.
Markus Floats, one of two openers for the main act, began his set seated in front of a MacBook and proceeded to set the tone in the strangest way possible: By playing a cacophony of shrill, dull, and at times excruciating sounds providing an unusual contrast to the smooth crooning voices of the next two performers.
Floats’ act was immediately followed by Helena Deland, a brilliant up-and-coming Quebec City native, steadily making waves in the music industry. Deland is featured on JPEGMAFIA’s chaotic new album All My Heroes Are Cornballs, providing short but striking finale to the song “Free the Frail.” Her performance of “Body Language” and “Baby” proved her musical prowess. Deland’s smooth vocals and fervent guitar make her the indie artist to watch in Montreal at the moment.
Weyes Blood started off with “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” the introductory song on her latest album Titanic Rising. Despite the openers’ engaging performances, Weyes Blood made it clear that she was the star of the night. The song is one of the highlights of the album, and was certainly one of the evening’s more memorable moments. The track immediately demonstrated that her vocals are even more arresting live, with one of her more musically complicated songs. While a dreamy, 1970s pop influence was at the forefront of “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” “Movies” was infused with booming, modern electronic beats, shaking the Rialto. This is contrasted with the melancholic, borderline country sound of “Picture Me Better,” a song Weyes Blood dedicated to a dear friend of hers who took her own life during the production of Titanic Rising.
In between a wonderfully upbeat performance of “Everyday” and a suitably more sorrowful one of “Something to Believe,” she posed a question to the audience: Was the moon landing faked? Surprisingly, only about five hands went up, indicating their belief. Weyes Blood proceeded to explain that when she asked the same question, almost everyone in her Vancouver audience had their hands up. She also joked that the Rialto itself was likely haunted, an observation that seems plausible given the venue’s maudlin, neo-baroque architecture.
While the four other band members wore t-shirts and jeans they could likely be seen wearing on any given day, Weyes Blood herself donned a crisp white suit, embroidered with her name on the back. The other band members’ attire may have drawn attention away from them, but their abilities compelled you to watch them just as intently as Weyes Blood herself. The essence of Titanic Rising was not only captured, but the band’s performance stood on its own merit. The drummer, in particular, appeared to be having the time of his life.
Both Weyes Blood and Helena Deland are two of the most gifted and inventive voices in the indie scene right now, and having them perform back to back seems too good to be true. The concert was a spectacular experience, a celebration of musical styles nearly half a century old that were made wonderfully new again.