with Talk Normal
The Social, Orlando, FL • February 8, 2012
Into a quiet, dark bar I walked, as fog shot out from the ceiling and gradually pillowed the room. I had a beer, I had another, and though the music soon began, the light — and the feeling of reality — never came.
Were I to view these conditions from the perspective of my poor camera’s light meter, I would deem the night the worst ever. Instead of dwelling on what my camera could not see or capture, I soon tucked her to sleep in her leather case and swam into the surreality of a concert experience according to Zola Jesus.
The music, prior to the headliner, began not with a bang but with a noisy whimper. Talk Normal, a Brooklyn pair of dueling vocalists whose singing styles are more garbled mumbling than singing, remind me of all the songs I don’t like by Sonic Youth and none of the ones that I do. Noise, garbled mumble, noise. On a few occasions a song would begin that hooked my ears with melodic and tantalizing drumming, but would soon slide into chaotic oblivion. The best thing I can say about Talk Normal is that drummer/vocalist Andrya Ambro plays like a freakin’ machine!
Centered around a glowing blue cube, a full band that included a violinist with a wicked fast hammering bow backed the pint sized Zola Jesus as she welcomed us into her landscape with the opening chords of “Swords” and into the haunting verses of “Avalanche.” Heart-clutching ballads like “Lick the Palm of the Burning Hand,” haunting epics like “Sea Talk,” or spine tickling moments of perfection like my personal favorite “Vessel” surrounded the hundreds in attendance like earmuffs on a cold night.
When the platinum ingenue danced her way into the center of the audience, backed herself up against a stage wall, or fell to her knees inches from the faces of the fan,s no one grabbed or squealed or tried to catch a piece of her. Something about Zola Jesus just feels otherworldly, and it would be disrespectful to do anything other than allow her the space to express herself and to applaud appropriately at the end of it. It would also be disrespectful not to move your body when she flew into a dance rage, as she does with “In Your Nature” and with a bring-the-house-down encore of “Seekir.”
The translation of the alien musings of this Russian-bred songstress from record to stage was remarkably true. The ambiance of the lack of light and the bursts of room-filling fog were helpful touches, but even had these artistic touches not been present, her vocals and pixie-ish presence, the Gothic violinist, and the pulse-quickening beats of drummer Nick Johnson would have sufficed.
As magical and mysterious as Florence Welch, Zola Jesus is swooping in to pick up listeners of early Tori Amos, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kate Bush, and Dead Can Dance. The Gothic Synth Wave has rolled in once again.
Gallery of live shots from this show: Zola Jesus.
Zola Jesus: zolajesus.com