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"I am merely a disciple of her gospel": Weyes Blood at RISING

“Last time I was here, it was March 2020” says Weyes Blood (Natalie Laura Melling) to the crowd that Thursday night. A chuckle from the audience follows this–in recognition, mostly–as she shared how she would wash her hands and face multiple times a day to avoid getting sick. She responds with deadpan delivery, “I guess you could say a lot has changed”. Her 2019 song from her album Titanic Rising, ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’ starts playing, with a cheer from the audience.

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“Last time I was here, it was March 2020” says Weyes Blood (Natalie Laura Melling) to the crowd that Thursday night. A chuckle from the audience follows this–in recognition, mostly–as she shared how she would wash her hands and face multiple times a day to avoid getting sick. She responds with deadpan delivery, “I guess you could say a lot has changed”. Her 2019 song from her album Titanic Rising, ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’ starts playing, with a cheer from the audience.

To describe Weyes Blood as prophetic may seem a bit sensationalist and over-theatrical. Still, there are few ways to describe songwriting that, to its core, was about preparing for the worst, released months before a pandemic. Now in 2023, Weyes Blood’s show, part of RISING Festival, follows her 2022 release And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, the second album to what will be a trilogy, with the first being 2019’s Titanic Rising. Despite being heralded as the millennial Joni Mitchell, Weyes Blood is a force in her own right, with the ability to speak about the human condition through a vessel of mundane experiences, like wondering if anyone at a party ever really knows you, as she laments in the 2022 album’s opening song, ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’.

The religious undertones of her artistry are brought to life, with the best way to describe her performance as attending a transformative mass, where one can finally understand what compels churchgoers to be called upon by a higher being through the power of hymns. Perhaps it is due to the artist’s strict Pentecostal upbringing, inspiring her gospel-style lyrics and music, ever-present in songs likeGod Turn Me into a Flower’ and ‘Everyday’, but I credit it to more than that. She has a beautiful voice that glides over her lyrics–that resonates physically. This asset, combined with indie dream pop production, makes it feels like you're transcending life itself with the rest of the audience.

This feeling wasn’t an individual one. There were moments where some songs left the audience in a breathless wonder, which in any other show would be considered a dead crowd, but here it was an act of reverence for this leader steering us into this new spiritual understanding. 

This isn’t to say the audience only stayed silent, Weyes Blood is far too impressive for that. For an artist that creates such dream-like bodies of work rich in storytelling and slower in pace, finding a way to translate them into a concert environment can be challenging. Her ability to make it look effortless is a testament to her as a performer. She knows how to find perfect balance as an entertainer, from expressing the deep devastations that consume her songwriting followed by little jabs of self-awareness that don’t take away from her earnestness. She says, “I have to do these things,” referring to her deadpan quips, “or I’ll cry”. 

In case it isn’t apparent, I am a staunch follower of Weyes Blood’s gospel, and I dare anyone who leaves one of her concerts not to understand why. Held in Melbourne’s Forum, a venue that leans into myth and the celestial, there wasn’t room to be grounded on Earth. Two particular songs, ‘God Turn Me Into a Flower’ and ‘Movies’, are personal favourites and perfect exemplars of Weyes Blood. Her performance of these completely encapsulates how the artist’s strengths and appeal. Her costume, upon which images could be projected, including a glowing heart reminiscent of In the Darkness…’s album cover, gracefully flew her around as she danced on the stage. In the two aforementioned songs, two videos edited by documentarian Adam Curtis played in quick succession behind her. The song ‘Movies’ particularly lifted the audience higher, with the video including clips of Jaws, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Red Shoes and Nope. Violins crescendoed in the background as she swept along the stage, her white dress twirling as much as her. It could make any fan weep–myself included–as who wouldn’t from such a display of love and passion over a shared experience?

If Titanic Rising was about preparing for the worst, and In the Darkness… is about learning how to cope with the worst experience, then this show combined these feelings with a meditation on finding joy in the apocalypse. The mundanities that consume our every day, the search for moments of dance and cheer when wanting to find love or reflecting on ghosts and spirituality in moments of quiet, were all witnessed in Weyes Blood’s show. It was an example of what it is like to listen to one of her projects, to bask in the ethereal and disembodied.

And to let my soul leave my body in Melbourne’s Forum for a few hours was a privilege. 

 
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