Concert Review: Chelsea Wolfe, Russian Circles, August 21, Lee’s Palace

chelsea wolfe

There are some musicians who can be quite open and chatty onstage, giving the audience much of themselves (see Allison’s recent review of Sebadoh) and then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum, saying little and adding an air of mystery to their performance. Both Chelsea Wolfe and Russian Circles are closer to this model, with Wolfe saying little onstage while Russian Circles, as far as I can recall, didn’t say a single word during their set. In fact, I’m not even sure that the band had any mics onstage with them at all.

Of course, being an instrumental band, the Chicago based post-metallers didn’t need mics, nor do they really need to speak to the audience. For some reason, the aloofness works for them and it seems a conscious decision on their part – in addition to the lack of stage banter, the band also appears to provide their own lighting for the show, eschewing the house lights and setting up their own lights onstage. The atmosphere meshes well with their sound, which alternated between trippy soundscapes and heavy, rhythmic riffing. The no frills approach means the audience has no choice but to focus solely on the music. Not that that was a problem for those in attendance at the fairly packed Horseshoe.

While Russian Circles were good, the main draw for me at this show was Chelsea Wolfe. I’ve been a fan of the singer for about a year now, since the release of her 2011 sophomore album Apokalypsis. She’s touring in advance of her upcoming acoustic album, though for her performance this night, she focused on the older, heavier stuff. Which suits me fine, since songs like “Mer,” “Moses,” and “Demons” sounded great live, her band adding the perfect dark sonic bedrock for Wolfe’s mesmerizing vocals to soar over. I’ve previously described her as sounding like PJ Harvey if she was American and into black metal and I think that still stands. I also hear hints of Beth Gibbons and Marissa Nadler’s work with Xasthur in her delivery as well. Overall, a pretty compelling performance.

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Posted on by Paul in Concerts

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