On a rain-soaked Sunday night at EOTR, Perfume Genius flirted with both triumph and disaster

The elements were against Michael Hadreas at End of the Road, but moments of his performance were still majestic

After 12 hours of unrelenting drizzle and featureless skies had turned the final day of End Of The Road into less something intrinsically enjoyable and more an experience to endure in the hope of feeling virtuous afterwards, there’s the sense that the programming of a delicately theatrical, billowy performance of melancholic torch songs is a decision that could go one of two ways, depending on how much artist and audience commit to one another.

As it turns out, Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas toys with each option during his allotted hour at dusk, flirting with both disaster and triumph, broadly in that order: opener ‘Otherside’ is a bravely stark overture to the set, but its bare piano is scarcely loud enough to drown out the sound of fine rain on breathable fabric, the song’s thunderous drop midway only accentuating quite how underpowered the rest is. A continued hushed approach combined with spill from nearby stages hampers any attempt to forge an atmosphere early on, and when a phone rings five rows from the front – and a distractible punter has the brass to take the call – the fear is that a bloom as gentle as Perfume Genius just isn’t cut out for this climate.

In the encroaching Stygian gloom, however, Hadreas blossoms, the set exploding as night falls. The fuller arrangement of ‘Slip Away’ seems to jolt both the band and its public into a hitherto absent level of attention, and while Hadreas seems unsure of what to do with the ensuing adulation (inter-song declarations of love from a soggy crowd clearly in need of a little affection are either ignored or sheepishly batted away), he finally discovers some insouciant musical groove in ‘Run Me Through’ to match his slithering, gravity-defying dance moves.

The performance climaxes rather majestically, but it makes for a tantalising finish: the late flashes of drama and intensity were quite the antidote for the elements, but over the course of an hour Perfume Genius’ nebulous smoulder was only at points enough to overcome the damp.

Perfume Genius, Garden Stage at End of the Road festival 2017, Sunday 3 September

Photos: Festival/Burak Cingi

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