Fort Worth The silence between songs was deafening.
So much so that at one point, about halfway through Wednesday night's set at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas (who performs as Perfume Genius) wryly remarked that he felt as though he was performing at a school assembly. The 40 or so gathered in the Modern's auditorium tittered politely, but didn't move to break the stillness with any unnecessary chatter. Honestly, it's a strange problem to have in North Texas, land of the indifferent and irritatingly loud concert talkers.
The unusual respect afforded Perfume Genius and the brisk pace of his set -- Hadreas and his two bandmates moved through 14 songs in a little less than an hour -- made the evening feel something like a waking dream, a feeling compounded by Hadreas's intimate, raw-nerved songs. (Wednesday's show was the second Perfume Genius gig in North Texas this year.) His quavering tenor, which slips easily into falsetto and often falls off his intended notes in thrilling ways, lifted up out of the dimly lighted auditorium like some kind of irresistible sonic phantom.
Coupled with occasionally harrowing lyrics -- "But you will learn to mind me/And you will learn to survive me," he intoned during Learning, evoking some particularly ugly, emotionally abusive imagery -- and the hypnotic appeal of watching such exacting music unfold in a near-perfect space like the Modern's auditorium, it was difficult not to fall under Perfume Genius's totally arresting spell.
The most recent Perfume Genius LP, this year's Put Your Back N 2 It, is a chilly masterpiece of wounded feeling and lush, gorgeous synthesizers, but in concert, the songs feel somehow warmer and slightly less oppressive. Part of that stems from Hadreas's charmingly ragged stage presence (he apologized for having ingested his dinner too soon before showtime, in case he accidentally burped during a more contemplative moment) and the immediacy of live performance. It's a shame such a small crowd turned out (although it was a mid-week show), but hopefully, Perfume Genius will return to another acoustically inviting room, and share his mesmerizing art with the sizable audience it deserves.
Opener Dusted (Holy F---'s Brian Borcherdt and Leon Taheny) provided a welcome, lightning-fast helping of minimalist indie rock, spinning out several songs with scarcely any banter in between. Armed with just a guitar, a drum kit, a piano and Borcherdt's high, shivery voice, Dusted's music was brisk but strikingly beautiful.