In stark contrast to the flamboyance that would be on display later in the evening, Aldous Harding quietly arrived on stage, perched on a stool and sat behind her acoustic guitar. The composed New Zealander addressed the crowd with songs from her self titled debut. Harding has the voice of a folk singer from a bygone era with a rich tone and earthiness that makes you think she was raised in a forest.
The music of Harding was calming and peaceful, whilst her banter was frank. Before playing her song The Hunter, Harding confided that her ex-boyfriend was in the video looking handsome, whilst lamenting he is an ‘asshole’ that introduced her to meth and that she has got ugly tattoos on her feet to prove it. Small Bones Of Courage highlighted her strong folky warble before Harding turned up the heat with an a capella take on Edith Piaf.
Perfume Genius has grown from the solo outlet of Mike Hadreas into a full band exercise. With three albums under his belt, the flamboyant Hadreas strode to the stage in heals, fishnet stockings and an oversized black t-shirt and declared himself with the almost gothic My Body. Exaggerated gyrating dance moves were winning the crowd over as they drew closer to the stage when Take Me Home finished as abruptly as it began. Hadreas changed pace by sitting behind a keyboard and leading the band through Dark Parts and Look Out, Look Out that brought an introspective feel to this Valentines eve.
Hadreas performed better vocally with each song, having a voice that is equal parts Antony Hegarty, Boy George and Conor Oberst. Not many have the chops to take on a Mary Margaret O’Hara tune, but Body In Trouble was putty in Perfume Genius’ capable hands. The quieter moments behind the keyboard was when Hadreas voice was most able to shine with Learning and Rusty Chains being highlights, but the lipsticked singer wasn’t shy of turning it up a notch during the bands best known moment Queen.
Following on from what has become the bands anthem wouldn’t be an easy task, but instead of trying to outdo their biggest number, Perfume Genius reigned it in for the encore. Revisiting the debut for Mr Peterson before the full band were invited back to the stage for All Along where they offered the most impressive harmonies of the night. As if that wasn’t enough, Hadreas evoked thoughts of bunny rabbits with a delicate run through Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes. Perfume Genius may not have been the biggest draw card when the Festival schedule was announced, but by the end of the night it had secured itself in what would be one of the Festival Gardens better shows for the season.