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Review of Weyes Blood's Homecoming Show at Union Transfer in Philadelphia

By Al Nigrin

originally published: 03/01/2023

Review of Weyes Blood

I finally got to see Weyes Blood play at a sold-out Union Transfer show in Philadelphia last night after three cancellations due to COVID. It was well worth the wait. Weyes Blood (whose name was derived from Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting novel Wise Blood) is Natalie Mering’s alter-ego where she channels her impressions of a world in crisis due to love lost, climate change and the pandemic.

Mering is a siren for the 21st century. Her voice is to die for. It glides, swoops, and swoons effortlessly and her key changes are smooth and uplifting. She played fourteen songs last evening. Eight songs are from her new album And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow and six from her landmark album Titanic Rising which was featured on many 2019 Top 10 lists including mine. Her set list hasn’t changed that much since she started her Holy Flux Tour in Europe in January 2023. Now she is making her way through the USA.

She opened with It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody which is the first track of And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow. Here is a video I shot of it on my iPhone 13 Pro:

The bass is a bit boomy in my recording but where I was standing (front row off to the left of center) gives you a nice view of Mering and her terrific band. Mering was dressed in all-white with white boots and a white cape that she would manipulate to great effect during various songs. She often would open her cape up and twirl around or hide her face in it like Bela Lugosi in Dracula. Her second song Children of the Empire seems to be an indictment of authoritarian countries where the children want to be liberated and unshackled from totalitarian rule.  

“Children of the empire know

Know that they're not free even though

They wanna be free

We know we're not free even though

We wanna be free.”

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After finishing Something to Believe, another free-flowing song from Titanic Rising, Mering asked the crowd if they were into astrology and explained she was a Gemini but had Scorpio tendencies which she ultimately didn’t believe in. This banter with the crowd led into her next song Andromeda. The crowd roared after hearing the opening chords of this exquisitely beautiful song which features George Harrison-like slide guitar playing.

Review of Weyes Blood

Perhaps the highlight of the evening for me was her live rendering of the song God Turn Me Into A Flower which featured a found-footage film by British filmmaker Adam Curtis which is in the vein of Bruce Conner’s work. The montage film, which played behind the band on the back wall, was accompanied by heavy organ music and electronic sounds of chirping birds. This music served as the foundation for Mering’s soaring voice in the song. Interestingly, Mering sings God Turn Me Into A Flower in almost total darkness and allows the film to take center stage.

Mering grew up in Bucks County, Pennyslvania so she shared many nostalgic moments with the audience. As she mentioned, this Philadelphia show was truly a “home coming.”

Weyes Blood continues its American tour tonight again in Philadelphia and thereafter in Brooklyn on Friday, March 3. Here is a copy of the set list  from last night's show. You can get more info on her music and tour here

Review of Weyes Blood

All photos by Al Nigrin copyright 2023

Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.

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