Concert Review: Zola Jesus, October 14, Mod Club

Zola Jesus

There are a few things that will almost always guarantee a favorable review. First, make it an early show. Second, have a good dinner. Third, make it geographically convenient. Fourth, make it a Friday night.

The Zola Jesus show at the Mod Club Theatre last week hit all of these marks. But beyond that, Nika Danilova delivered a solid show, proving that she is not just another flash-in-pan in a parade of goth-y, powerful female vocalists to come out within the past couple of years (Bat for Lashes aka Natasha Khan comes most immediately to mind). Though given the deluge of women singers we’re typically subjected to, this departure from the booty-bearing pop princess is a welcome trend. Songstresses like Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush, I’m sure, approve.

Raised in Cheese-drenched Wisconsin, Nika Danilova has an interesting background. Her parents are Russian, she grew up in 98% white logging town of Merrill and raised herself on opera music, training herself at an early age to sing with exacting standards. Maybe it was this early self-education that makes her such a natural performer now.

There’s a difference between those who strike out as bedroom performers and those that strike out as public ones early on. I reckon that those who become more comfortable as musicians are the ones who start doing live shows as quickly as possible instead of experimenting with synth equipment in someone’s bedroom in high school, because live music is a whole different game. I was somewhat surprised that the hype machine hasn’t quite caught up with Zola Jesus in Toronto, but maybe I’m so late I missed all of the frenzy, and now it’s down to a mere simmer. That’s just fine with me, as seeing Danilova at the sparsely populated Mod Club made for some interesting theatrics in the latter half of the show.

This is the second recent general admission set I’ve attended where the lead singer has decided to “hang out” singing on the floor as opposed to the stage. The first was during last month’s Peter, Bjorn, and John show, when Peter got lost in a sea in front of the stage. The second incident was this show, where Ms. Danilova decided she’d mix things up by disappearing off the stage and running through the audience a couple of times. There happened to be a big gaping hole in the area I was standing, so she walked right by me twice, and everyone realized how short she was.

But no matter, the material she presents in Stridulum II is fantastic stuff. Dark, sharp, and powerful with industrial/goth influences–that coupled with her comfort and charisma onstage equals a short but good show.

3.5 out of 5

Posted on by Allison in Concerts

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