Under a railway arch on election night - long before that game-changing election poll came barrelling along with a big bag of cans in tow later on - Heaven is campaigning for Perfume Genius to become the next Prime Minister. “It’s too hard to do, though,” says Mike Hadreas quietly, smirking and taking a moment to hoick up his costume; an extravagant, plumed creation which channels a vibe somewhere between a well-dressed peacock, and a milk maid. “I’ll do it,” he adds.
Mike is light on so-called stage banter. Mostly, he talks about his inability to chat between songs, instead, and it’s when he performs - or rather, throws himself headlong and billowing into the abyss of every single song - that he turns into a force that fills the entire room. The tinkling piano of ‘Otherside’ wrenches itself loose into jarring shards of the sublime under pink hazy light, and ‘Too Bright’ cut ‘Longpig’ is its neon-hued, seedy reflection. ‘Fool,’ meanwhile, waltzes cheekily along. “I titter and coo, like a cartoon,” Mike sings sweetly, grinning across the room, before swinging open the door to soaring melancholy, and contorting and howling like a gymnastic wolf caught in a hurricane. And ‘Normal Song,’ from ‘Put Your Back N 2 It’ glances tenderly back in his discography, during a brief-ish setlist dip into his second record. He and boyfriend Alan Wyffles (who plays keyboards in Perfy G’s band) exchange close glances during the song, too, juggling meek guitar strums with rich ripples of piano. Either everyone in the place is suffering from a Tracy Beaker style outbreak of sudden hayfever, or… oh who are we kidding, here, Perfume Genius’ set is an emotional onslaught.
Puckering, howling and swirling while the orchestral synths rip past him, Mike Hadreas is a wild force, creating the kind of feral, transgressive music that forces people to chuck dictionaries and conventions out of the window. After a nod right back to his debut, of course, it’s ‘Queen’ that closes out a victory lap encore; basking gleefully in a camp, kitschy kind of strength that refuses to conform to anyone. Shatteringly vulnerable and terrifyingly powerful at the same time, Perfume Genius’ music gives a voice to the ragged, and lends a sashay to the ruined. It’s truly remarkable to witness.
Photos: Caroline Quinn