Then a frail looking form of a waif came out in faded acid wash skinny jeans, an oversized white shirt, & an auburn fur vest. Her shockingly white platinum hair hung in heavy locks about her face. The lack of color to her hair was amplified by her nearly translucent pale skin, which was graphically contrasted by her dark, thin, and delicately manicured eyebrows. Her petite frame shocked me! She couldn't possibly be more than five feet tall and 90 pounds. I questioned whether she was human... Or Gelfling! I kept waiting for the moment of danger when she'd jump and reveal her wings like Kira, who was no doubt an ancestor of Zola Jesus. As the sound of "Swords" came to a close over the PA, I became concerned that this was going to be a "Push Play" type of performance, like Ladytron or Sleigh Bells had been. When all the music happens in post production and the proverbial man behind the curtain is revealed to be a talentless hack at the live stage performance.
I am happy to report that in the case of Zola Jesus, this is not how it went down.
Real drums, an audible electric violin, and a synth churned out living and breathing auditory pulsations to the new single "Avalanche". Then, the moment of fact or fiction was upon us. "Can Zola sing? Does her voice in concert match the vocal stylings that are so haunting, powerful, and prevalent on her studio albums?"
The answer is Yes. An unfaltering, blood curdling, bone shaking YES! The little elfin frame of Zola Jesus joyously produced a true voice of somber depth, of mournful wails, and of throaty expressive yearning. That girl can sing- and she did her goth godmothers proud! I was so relieved to discover that her set of pipes exist in the material world, and not just thanks to studio magic. Her backing band was great too, a very successfully blended concoction of synth and live instrumentation. Their stage presence was a little stiff, but Zola tried to counter that with some wild flailing and tribalistic neo-goth dancing during the bridges. I can't seem to fault the band, really, it's to be expected, the music IS very moody. When you listen to Zola Jesus it immediately gives you the impression that you're in a dark Siberian cave, gnawing on bones and crying.
Overall, I'd say Zola Jesus is an excellent new talent whose voice and songs are powerful and well produced both in recording and on stage, and the only key element missing (for me) from the show, was, a slight touch of theatrics. Nothing too heavy handed, mind you, but I think Zola and her band are still searching for their visual representation, style, and look. Will this tiny little missing ingredient keep me from seeing Zola live again? Hell no. I look forward to the next dimly lit room with Zola's mournful wails ricocheting off the walls, and so should you.
Swords (over the PA)
In Your Nature
Lick the Palm of the Burning Handshake
Run Me Out