May 12, 2016 Chelsea Wolfe Takes Over Music Hall of Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY 5-8-16
Embarking on her 2016 North American tour, American singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe began her latest jaunt on April 24th in Las Vegas and will be wrapping it up at home in Los Angeles on June 8th. Still promoting her 2015 album, Abyss, as well as her more recently released single Hypnos/Flame, Chelsea Wolfe passed through New York for two metro area shows, hitting Brooklyn on Sunday, May 8th followed by Manhattan one day later. The first engagement took place at the Music Hall of Williamsburg over on 6th St in Brooklyn, featuring support from New Zealand two-piece A Dead Forest Index. The word has been steadily getting out about Chelsea Wolfe, and the Music Hall on this particular evening was filling pretty close to capacity as the lights went down for the opener.
Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, A Dead Forest Index is comprised of brothers Sam and Adam Sherry. Label mates with Chelsea Wolfe on Sargent House Records, the pair play a dreamy form of dark Pop reminiscent of beloved new wave British bands from the ’80s. Vocalist Adam’s soft voice had a good deal of dynamic range and power with “Voices From the Outside;” a calming slow jam of Indie Rock elegance. Switching out guitars, politely thanking the crowd, A Dead Forest Index brought a lot of dramatic power to their set, and when percussionist Sam Sherry informed the hall that it was their first time in New York, a very appreciative burst of applause greeted him. An excellent first impression indeed, as this unique duo’s first album, In All That Drifts From Summit Down, was released just one week prior to this show. Their eclectic mix of Division Bell era Pink Floyd meets The Velvet Underground certainly went down well, and there is no doubt the New Zealanders gained a host of new fans in their wake.
Chelsea Wolfe has been building a large following these past few years, and with good reason. Her latest full-length studio album, Abyss, has further bolstered the momentum she has been gathering since debuting with 2010’s The Grime and the Glow. Playing New York City is beginning to be a staple, almost yearly occurrence, for the super-talented Wolfe, and judging by the jam-packed Music Hall of Williamsburg, she is only going to keep exploding.
As she and her band mates descended into the gloaming of the muted stage, a massive roar greeted them. Conversation stopped as all eyes gazed raptly at the arrival of the headliner. Clad in a wispy black dress leaving shoulders and forearms exposed, the California native did not need to utter a single word to take command of the stage. Wolfe lets the music do the talking, floating into position amid the tectonic vibrations of bass and reverb. With minimal eye contact and nary a smile to be seen, the band and its dark queen launched into “Demons,” the almost tribal percussion pounding its hypnotic rhythms into the hall. With “Carrion Flowers,” the opener to Abyss, the stage itself shook along with the song’s mechanistic pulsation. Bass Guitarist Ben Chisholm worked his pedals like a mad scientist, coaxing a universe of sonic dread and aural madness into the hall. Wolfe’s voice orbited the clamor like a whisper in the heart, her grip on tragedies both personal and extant coming through in the tortured pangs of her voice. Cuts from Abyss were peppered liberally throughout the set. “Dragged Out” came on with Wolfe’s bluesy voice in lounge act mode before the heavy instrumental accompaniment propelled it into Doom-laden territory. Her voice, as haunting live as it is on vinyl, mesmerized the crowd. Between songs, many could be heard whooping and screaming their approval, their reactions eliciting a few pleased acknowledgements of appreciation from Wolfe. The spell-binding “After the Fall” gutted onlookers with its discomfiting departure from the soothing ballad it masquerades as, its ambient departure heralding a return to older material for the mid part of the set.
“Moses” and “Tracks (Tall Bodies)” weaved their own sorcery of slow, bad-dream ballads before one of the more epic moments of the whole set occurred. Wolfe, who had been changing from one gorgeous guitar to another, put all of her instruments down and grasped the microphone for a stunning rendition of “Movie Screen.” Standing beneath one velvety shaft of light that barely pierced the comfortable darkness of the stage, Wolfe’s voice punctured the hearts of all who listened this night. While cheers were exuberant, they were relegated to their rightful places between songs. In the silences between her mournful odes, Wolfe’s audience stood silently. The proverbial pin dropping would have applied, so enraptured were the dark souls gathered to watch Chelsea Wolfe play.
Following this visit to 2011 sophomore album Apokalypsis, Wolfe jumped back to 2013’s Pain Is Beauty with the massively popular “Feral Love” and “House of Metal.” The former song’s warning two-tone opening, like the foghorn of a lost ship afloat in a ghostly sea, stoked the crowd. This slow builder revolves around this two-note call, emerging like a butterfly from a chrysalis before descending into the coma of sleep. “House of Metal” came next, half comforting ballad, half creeping nightmare.
To finish her set, Wolfe jumped back to Abyss with the exquisitely maudlin “Simple Death.” “Color of Blood” hit hard with its ultra heavy undertones, her emotion-packed vocals holding the racket in an unwavering embrace. The heaviness was a palpable thing on this night, her music both gravid and feather-light, pounding drums and hungry bass tones clashing with but not extinguishing the lavishness of Wolfe’s voice. Closing the set with the masterful “Survive,” the crowd was treated to the dreaming melancholy suffused throughout her music. No matter how lovely her vocals, her band mates were on hand to provide an intermittent counterpoint of noisy, discomfiting racket which only served to bolster the end result.
After a quick encore, Chelsea Wolfe ended the set on her hands and knees. The pain and emotion had been released from her body into the beings who had just absorbed it, both the music and the timbre of her soulful voice. Like the snake tattooed on her right forearm, the energy of the night remained coiled within the hearts of fans old and new. On this night, she became the “Wolfe” of 6th St, proving once more that Chelsea Wolfe is one of the most creative, talented, spellbinding forces making music in the world today. As fans departed into the brisk Brooklyn night, they knew that in a world of mediocrity, they had just beheld something truly special.