All Photos and text by Bobby Cochran
Los Angeles-based Chelsea Wolfe makes a style of music that’s hard to pin down, ranging from eerie folk, to dark electronic, to dirgy doom metal, and everything in between. Though it’s diversity, it maintains a thread of continuity that defines it as uniquely her own. Possessed of one of the most beautiful singing voices in music today, Chelsea can make even the darkest music sound like a lullaby. Live, she delivers all her songs with a slight divergence from the recorded form, performing everything with a heavier edge and slight re-arrangements to suit the bands that accompany her. Seeing her perform at The Chapel in SF, a relatively small venue for such an established artist, was a special treat. Its size was, I imagine, the primary reason for her two-night stint there.
Joining her on her most recent European tour and the current American tour are New Zealand-based duo, A Dead Forest Index. Recent label mates of Chelsea’s, ADFI have been given the opportunity to perform around the world for sizeable audiences unfamiliar with their work. Consisting of brothers Adam Sherry (vocals/guitar) and Sam Sherry (drums/vocals), ADFI perform music that sonically exceeds what one might expect from a duo. Soaring, hymn-like vocals over droning guitars, drums that accentuate emotion by driving hard or pulsing lightly as needed, always tastefully. The songs fill a cavernous space, shifting dynamically and fluidly, and keeps audiences rapt. My hope is that this is the first of many times we’ll be able to see this spectacular band live.
For this tour, Chelsea Wolfe delighted audiences with renditions of older, less-performed songs from her albums Apokalypsis and Unknown Rooms, in addition to tracks from her two most recent albums. Opening with the driving rhythmical track “Demons,” then three of the best tracks off Abyss (“Carrion Flowers,” “Dragged Out” and “After The Fall”), the audience’s delight was almost palpable when she played three songs from Apocalypsis, (“Mer,” “Tracks (Tall Bodies),” and “Movie Screen.” The latter song’s looped vocal intro was performed so delicately, so quietly, there wasn’t a glass clanked or word spoken in the whole house. Performing these songs with her current band lent a weight to them that pushed their emotion further and deeper. Heaviness and gorgeousness combined flawlessly. As someone who’s been fortunate enough to see Chelsea live a number of times, it was a treat to see her interacting with the audience more, at one point kneeling down and swaying at the front of the stage as she performed “House Of Metal.” There’d been word online about Chelsea having to cancel previous dates on this tour due to vocal strain, but there was nothing in her performance that indicated any weakness or flaw in that department. Pitch perfect, as always. Set closer “Survive” was a culminating moment of grandeur, droning and building into the chaotic finale, echoing feedback and distortion, fading as the band exited the stage.
The dual encores of “Hypnos” and “Halfsleeper” were beyond delightful… the latter having not been performed live in years, and the former being an example of a song that’s so good, it’s easy to understand why it was released as a single well after the release of Abyss. Both songs exist as delicate acoustic masterpieces on the original recordings, and again, played live they had a heft and weight to them that propelled them into a new sonic arena, more powerful and darker then ever.
In all the times I’ve seen Chelsea Wolfe, she’s always accompanied by a different set of musicians, performing a diverse range of songs from her growing catalog. Tonight’s show was a powerful mix of new and old, stitched together in a parade of enchanting musical moments, performed to perfection.
A Dead Forest Index