Black Heart Procession with Chelsea Wolfe
With a band like the Black Heart Procession, you don’t always know what to expect. I’ve seen them play a handful of times over the years both as headliner and as the opening band. I’ve seen them on festival stages and in small clubs. I’ve also seen their membership swell from three people to as many as five, and I have always been impressed by how much effort goes into getting the details of their stage show perfect. Tonight was no different—the band was spot on.
On tour with BHP this time around was the folky doom singer Chelsea Wolfe. Wolfe came with an entire backing band and did a great job getting the small Urban Lounge crowd in the mood. The music was heavy and significantly tape-looped. It was also distorted and had a beautifully bleak sound to it. It was a little more electronic than I was in the mood for, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. The band was tight and well-rehearsed, and to the uninitiated like me it sounded awesome. Wolfe’s stage presence also looked to be an important part of their show. Still, I couldn’t help thinking that Wolfe, dressed in black and wearing a top made mostly of feathers, looked like a combination of “Half Breed”-era Cher, Feist and whatever Aleister Crowley’s idea of Egyptian sexy would be. Who knows, this may have been what she was going for.
Black Heart Procession performed this evening as a three-piece. Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel, both core members of the band, were joined on stage by a drummer, a few of their own lights and a fog machine. I am only familiar with about half of what the band has put out, and I was a little worried that they would focus more on the later material—the stuff I didn’t know as well. To my delight, and to the delight of the small yet dedicated crowd, the bulk of the songs they did came from the first few records. The very first record, titled fittingly enough “One,” was very heavily represented in the set. They played so many songs about lost love and personal despair that it’s hard to keep them all straight, but the more upbeat tracks “Release my Heart” and “Blue Water-Black Heart” were early crowd favorites. They also did the more ballad-like “Even Thieves Couldn’t Lie”—a slower number that got the audience to come in closer and really pay attention. The highlight of these early songs, and the only one where Jenkins played his mighty hand saw, was the hauntingly fragile “Stitched to my Heart.” This is one of my favorite BHP songs and to see it recreated with such sparse instrumentation was incredibly satisfying.
The band went on to do songs from many of their other records. The ones that stood out were “A Light So Dim” from the second release and “Till We Have to Say Goodbye” from number three. Another great tune, and one that got Jenkins to stand up and croon was “A Cry for Love” from 2002’s Amore Del Tropico. His consistent and unforgettable voice managed to evoke a sort of desolate soundscape that still felt inviting. This, coupled with Nathaniel’s morose score, made for an intensely emotional delivery. After about an hour on stage, the trio took leave and gave the crowd a chance to catch their collective breath. When they returned, they ripped through an encore that included a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “You Got Lucky” and their own quasi-anthem, and my favorite Black Heart song of all time, “It’s a Crime I Never Told You about the Diamonds in Your Eyes.” A fitting exclamation point to punctuate the evening.
In all, this was a great show. The crowd was smaller than it should have been, but this is often the case when bands play SLC on a Sunday night in mid-winter. The most troubling part of this, though, was that the small numbers meant that the otherwise ignorable rude people became more of an issue. I will never understand why you would pay money to come to a show and then chat loudly through the entire performance. Between the old creepy drunk guy and the shrill inebriated woman, there were some serious distractions. At one point the band stopped mid-song and asked an audience member to calm the fuck down. At another point concert goers asked the same of several loud and chatty groups. This was the one downside to the evening. People tended to calm down when asked, but this is the kind of thing that shouldn’t have to happen in the first place. Seriously people, if you can’t drink and not be an ass, do the rest of us a favor and stay the fuck home.
Black Heart Procession with Chelsea Wolfe