Toronto, Canada – Most recently, I have opened my doors to concert photography and reviews from musicians and genres that are outside of my comfort zone. These are bands, or artists that play a style of music that isn’t something I would typically listen to on a regular basis. It allows me to come with a completely unbiased voice, and also introduces me to some really great musicians and interesting music. A recent one that comes to mind is Suki Waterhouse, who I covered here earlier this year in January. March 9th brought another opportunity of the like, with California based Weyes Blood.
(Pronounced Wize Blood) Weyes Blood is the professional name of Santa Monica born Natalie Mering. Mering is an alternative indie artist who finally settled on the name Weyes Blood, after a few iterations of the Flanner O’Connor novel “Wise Blood”. The artist’s first three self-released albums were released under the name Weyes Bluhd. Bluhd was changed to “Blood” for the singer’s 2011 release The Outside Room.
After singing her first record contract, Weyes Blood has most recently signed with Sub Pop. For Sub Pop, she released Titanic Rising in 2019. Her most recent work is entitled And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow which released in 2022. It is with this album that Blood finds herself on the road to support “The Holy Flux Tour”. On March 9, 2023, the vocalist and her band were in Toronto to perform at Danforth Music Hall.
The supporting act on this tour is an artist, also from California, that was one of the most interesting performances I had ever seen. You see, the solo artist Molly Lewis is not a singer, or a violin player. In fact, she doesn’t play any instruments at all. Accompanied by her background, classical sound track, Molly Lewis is a whistler. 100% true story! At first, the immediate reaction is “What……….????”, and before you know it, you are mesmerized by the performer’s abilities. You get pulled into the gentle sounds, as she whistles through the whole set. The artist is also extremely funny in her interactions with the crowd, who are completely enamoured with the entertainer. She explains that she would love to be able to sing, but the reality is that she cannot. So she settles with her gift, and leaves the singing to Natalie. I fully understand your skepticism on this one, but open up your mind, and you’ll find something you may have never imagined.
With the opening act having completed her set, I chill with the crowd at the Danforth Music Hall. It’s a venue at the west end of Torontos’ iconic Danforth Avenue. While I have seen a number of shows here, I have never had the pleasure of photographing any bands at this location. It allows me some talking points with a couple nearby fans. One of the individuals was an older dude like me. I’ll be honest, it is a little difficult to blend in with the predominantly young demographic. It gives us another speaking point as this gentleman had been accompanying his two sons at the show. The other gentleman, who was extremely knowledgeable in his music trivia was preparing me for the voice we were about to hear.
As the lights dim to start the headlining set, we have a very moody scene in front of us as candles and fog bring the atmosphere. From stage left, a young lady in a long flowing white dress, gracefully enters, a white cape trailing behind her. A beautiful voice start the lyrics to the opening track “It’s Not Just Me”. It’s a sound very reminiscent of a cross between Canadian folk music icon Anne Murray, and one half of the Carpenter’s duet Karen Carpenter. While the vocalist sings the opening song, she dances around the stage, swinging her cape, and giving an opening performance that is going to set the stage for the next 80+ minutes. Her fans give out a roar as they go wild.
For the second track “Children of the Empire”, Blood shows that she’s not just a pretty voice, as she straps a 6-string acoustic guitar around her shoulder. Her musical prowess is multifaceted, and it’s a treat we will get throughout this live event. After the second song, the singer give her first “Hellos” to the Toronto crowd, asking where the most haunted place in Toronto is. It’s a question that goes with the moody atmosphere of the set design and leads to some conversations that come round to the city of Toronto itself. Natalie tells us that it’s been a long time since she first played in Toronto, and since then, a lot has “changed”. The band then goes into the 3rd track of the night “A Lot’s Gonna Change”.
For the artist’s 4th track “God, Turn Me Into A Flower”, we get a change in the lighting. A white light shines from behind the singer, through her cloak. It gives an extremely cool silhouette visual for the very emotional track which highlights her vocal abilities. We learn a little later in the set that Mering is starting to get a bit of a cold and not feeling perfect. From the heavenly voice I have heard halfway through the set, I’m amazed that this may not be the best she has to offer, and it makes me happy to have requested the media pass for this show.
A bit of an anomaly for this show are the photographers’ dedicated three tracks in which they are allowed to photograph. Typically, we are only allowed to photograph the first 3 (sometimes only 2) songs, but on this evening, we were only allowed to capture images from tracks 8, 9 and 10. I have never experienced this before, but was ready to hit the pit when the time came. Visually, the lighting was better suited for photographs during this sequence. It also allowed Weyes Blood’s glowing chest during track #10, “Twin Flame” to be realized on that digital SD card that records the images on a digital camera.
After our “work” was finished, we headed back into the sold out crowd (this was the second of two sold out Toronto shows for Weyes Blood, as the band had also performed on March 8). The track “Movies”, about the escape from reality, but understanding that life shouldn’t be expected to be as it is on the screen (be it movies, TV, or even social media), was a moment to close your eyes and immerse yourself in the music. I look about and see several fans doing this exact thing. The lead singer throws out a half dozen white roses into he crowd during this track, and eventually the tempo in increases, and strobes flash incessantly. Mering is dancing around the stage, with her flowing cape swinging and blowing behind her. It’s a visually stunning moment and the crowd goes crazy.
Despite the mainly soft, gentle, calming music of Weyes Blood, there were a number of moments during the show where the singer gave an outstanding performance, dancing around the stage, jumping up on the drum riser, and getting down on her knees. It was an exhibition that had the crowd wanting more as the singer closed off the evening.
BUT OF COURSE, the good old encore (I am a fan)! Weyes Blood adorns the guitar again as the band appears for the encore. She plays the opening riff of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as the drummer accompanies the guitar piece, but it’s all too brief as they lead into “Something to Believe”, and ultimately, the lead singer truly closes off the evening with an acoustic number, just her and her 6-string, as she plays “Bad Magic”.
As the lights came up, I was able to see the hundreds of smiling faces. I can’t help but to smile myself. Weyes Blood put on a vocal performance that is worthy of an even larger following. Perhaps that is well in the cards for this singer, but I also feel the intimacy leads to a much greater experience. This was definitely one of them. For a photographer with metal in his heart, Weyes Blood did her part in softening this calloused soul.
- It’s Not Just
- Children of the Empire
- A Lot’s Gonna Change
- God, Turn Me Into a Flower
- A Given Thing
- The Worst is Done
- Twin Flame
- Something to Believe
- Bad Magic
show date: March 9, 2023