It wasn’t so long ago that Natalie Mering – better known as Weyes Blood – was accustomed to playing cozier spaces than the rather huge stage at Roadrunner. It was a marked leap from her last local headlining show at The Sinclair to what Mering remarked was one of her biggest North American gigs to date.
From a listener’s perspective, the step up comes as no real surprise. Mering has been making music as Weyes Blood (or some spelling variation thereof) since her teens, evolving from experimental noise and avant-psych (with stints in true Weird Music orbits like that of Portland, OR experimentalists Jackie-O Motherfucker along the way) towards an increasingly majestic baroque-folk sound. Pulled into focus with 2019’s Titanic Rising and last year’s In the Darkness, Heart’s Aglow, it’s a widescreen vision that longs for space to unfurl.
At Roadrunner, things did look downright cinematic on stage, as Mering and her four-piece band were flanked by an arrangement of glowing candelabras, billows of atmospheric fog and some actual projections (an impressionistic Adam Curtis video collage above the band for “God Turn Me Into a Flower” and a swirl of color on Mering’s gown for, appropriately, “Movies”). For their feature presentation, the group touched on the majority of both of those aforementioned records in lush, sweeping fashion. And whether in full-band swell or nearly unaccompanied, Mering’s timeless voice and timely lyrics held a near-sellout crowd in raptured silence (so much so that the Great Scott curse of an errant hand dryer threatening to break the spell loomed if one stood too close to the back of the room).
Mering has written of these two collections of songs as the first two parts of a trilogy focusing on “feelings of impending doom” and “feeling around in the dark for meaning in a time of instability and irrevocable change,” and those themes were borne out in songs about isolation, vulnerability and existential dread. Not always the most lighthearted stuff for a Sunday night, but moments of levity kept things in balance. A monologue about an effort to cancel astrology and an audience-to-band DVD exchange (where Miyazaki was popular; I ferried a copy of Howl’s Moving Castle over the photo pit) preceded the buoyant “Everyday” – the ensemble’s only upbeat song, Mering jokingly suggested. The light still shines through in her songwriting, as it did on stage.
Opener Molly Lewis pulled off the rare feat of doing something I’ve never seen before in concert – namely, performing a full set of whistling over backing tracks of lounge pop and Tropicália guitars. Lewis is a virtuosic talent in her (rather small, she reminded us) field, and genuinely spellbinding to watch. A curator of perhaps the most ethereally chill atmosphere ever within the Roadrunner walls.