The year may not even be halfway over, but I’ve known since its April release that Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising is going to be one of my top albums of 2019. If you haven’t yet listened to the baroque chamber pop masterpiece, run, don’t walk. When discussing her fourth full-length release with Buzzbands LA, Natalie Mering said she tries to be “futuristic and ancient all at once, which is a difficult alchemy.” After seeing Weyes Blood perform at the Troubadour last week, I have no doubt she’s found the magic formula.
Jackie Cohen and Kevin Basko opened the night with a lively acoustic set showcasing highlights from Cohen’s new LP, Zagg, as well as tracks from her 2018 EPs. The duo oozed with youthful charm and musical sophistication, with crisp vocal and guitar harmonies that enchanted the crowd. Zagg is another album you shouldn’t sleep on; Cohen is a versatile songwriter and performer. Though the full range of her genre-bending is more overtly flexed in her recordings (see: the Irish-folk-adjacent intro and riff of “Caught in a Feeling” immediately preceding Krautrock-inspired “Get Out”), her live act still showcases her flexibility. Ballads like the country-tinged, mournful “Bold” and wistful “Maddy” were right at home next to summery pop songs like “Chico Chico.”
When the Weyes Blood band stepped out dressed in black, with Mering at the center in a sharp white suit, the crowd was immediately hypnotized. The set began with Titanic Rising opener, “A Lot’s Gonna Change.” Its delicate and eerie synth intro gave way to a subtle piano line and eventually the full band’s entrance, while the audience moved from a churchlike stillness to a comfortable sway. The rest of the set conjured up plenty of celestial imagery for me between Mering’s dulcet soprano, choral backing vocals, spacey and reverb-heavy production, and a backdrop of swirling lights and colors.
I’ve never heard anything as otherworldly as the live version of “Movies” - it felt like attending mass on the ocean floor. The ballad is haunting enough in its recorded version, full of muffled, arpeggiated synths and vocals reminiscent of an art-pop Gregorian chant. Mering’s performance was even more powerful in person, controlled and packed with emotion. More uptempo songs stirred hearts and dancing shoes alike. “Everyday” was a crowd favorite - it’s hard not to love a jaunty, piano-driven meditation on the trials of modern romance, especially one with such a relatable hook.
Of course, Mering found space for old favorites and other surprises in the set. I was especially happy about the inclusion of “Seven Words” from 2016’s Front Row Seat To Earth, a straightforward and heartfelt ode to a love that’s nearly over. The crowd was pleased to hear 2014’s “Bad Magic,” which boasted a bluesy fingerpicking melody, some especially tight vocal harmonies, and arguably my favorite Weyes Blood lyrics. Hearing lines like “You're not just a time bomb/Just ‘cause you went off don't mean you're scattered everywhere” in person was borderline spiritual. Just as lovely was the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” cover, in which Jackie and Kevin returned to sing backup.
Overall, I thought Weyes Blood’s performance was pure sonic sorcery, and on top of Jackie Cohen’s mellow set, it will surely be difficult to top.
— Anna Podkowski, Staff