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miawilson
5th March 2023

Live review: Weyes Blood gives a heavenly performance at O2 Ritz, Manchester

California native Weyes Blood’s ethereal tones filled the venue in an angelic performance of her latest album And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow
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Live review: Weyes Blood gives a heavenly performance at O2 Ritz, Manchester
Photo: Weyes Blood @ Mia Wilson

Weyes Blood returned to Manchester for her aptly named In Holy Flux tour, where she delivered a truly sacred experience to the sold-out crowd. Inspired by Flannery O’Connor’s 1952 novel Wise Blood, California native Natalie Mering embodies the same gothic essence in her spiritual performance and emotionally haunting songwriting. Celebrating the release of her newest album And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, Weyes Blood bewitched her fans with a spell of performance twists that kept us utterly enchanted.

Support act Sam Burton filled the room with indie whimsy, his nostalgic sounds warming up the audience perfectly with soft but powerful tones. Reminiscent of early Leonard Cohen and The Velvet Underground, his heartfelt and refined folk-inspired performance established a calm and acoustic atmosphere inside the venue. 

As the venue lights lowered, a stunning series of lit gothic candelabras became visible. This was our first insight into the ways that Weyes Blood would commit to continually interweaving her iconic aesthetic throughout the show. Anticipation built as we waited for the band and their entry did not disappoint. Weyes Blood appeared wearing a full-length, caped white dress; she was dressed not unlike an angel or a runaway bride, and she gracefully delivered a performance with the fervour of both. 

Photo: Weyes Blood – And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow Official Album Artwork @ Neil Krug

Mering began the show chronologically with the album’s opener ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’, during which she made her breath-taking emotional depth and astonishing voice seem effortless. The artist followed with ‘Children of the Empire’ turning to the (relatively) more upbeat piano-led ballad. 

Then Mering returned to her 2019 baroque pop album Titanic Rising, singing ‘Something to Believe’ and fan favourite ‘Andromeda’. The room lit up, both figuratively and literally, as the lights shone red and the room echoed with a chorus of fans singing along to the orchestral anthem. 

A true highlight of the concert was the performance of ‘God Turn Me Into a Flower’, during which a projection was cast upon the velvet curtains behind the band. A feature created by the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis created an eerie backdrop to the song. Using an array of clips from raves, explosions, weddings, marches, and more, the result was an aesthetic and mesmerising exploration of life’s most joyous and devastating moments.

Alongside the transcendent and choral energy that Weyes Blood brings to the ballad, this performance was captivating. It was a majestic, cinematic venture which, coupled with the song’s concluding birdsong, grounded Mering’s track in an emotional reality.  

Often joking with the crowd to offset the heaviness of her music, Weyes Blood paused her light-hearted interludes to confess that performing in Manchester made her feel as though “she was standing on the shoulders of giants”, with a lot of her favourite music being from the city. 

For the final few songs  – or the self-proclaimed “rave portion” of the gig – she turned to the more 80s pop-influenced ‘Twin Flame’, evocative of Kate Bush. Though she maintained her romantic aesthetic as a glowing red heart beamed through her dress, mirroring the image from her And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow album cover and contrasting the blue lighting which otherwise flooded the room. Mering ensured that the song’s repetitive drums also upheld Bush’s sense of whimsy as she twirled across the stage, throwing white roses to her audience.

Once again encapsulating the conceptual symbols of her albums, Weyes Blood returned to Titanic Rising’s eponymous use of drowning for the song ‘Movies’. The room itself was plunged into darkness and Mering was lit solely by a blue sea effect. The already wavy and dizzying synths of the song were coupled with the seascape lighting to create a truly immersive experience. 

She concluded the night with ‘Hearts Aglow’, a theatrical hymn dedicated to unknowable and uncontrollable love. With her final song, she gave the audience a message of consolation – that no one knows what they’re doing! From her charming stage presence to her dazzling vocal performance, Weyes Blood’s In Holy Flux tour certainly delivered a religious experience.

 

You can stream And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow below:


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