Concert Reviews

Zola Jesus at The Horseshoe Tavern

Photographs by Agah Bahari.

Zola Jesus’ recently released fifth album Taiga drew some unwarranted criticism for being too pop, and whitewashing the unique out of the gothic-cinematic electronic act from Wisconsin. Revolving around Nika Roza Danilova, Zola Jesus packed the Horseshoe with an above average number of tall spectators.

It’s not like Taiga is such a shocking departure from her earlier work; it’s not. I find the new album more in line with her surprisingly energetic live shows. She played an all too brief set at the 2012 edition of Montreal’s Osheaga Festival, cut short by a brief torrential rain storm, but I was floored over those few songs. I was also very surprised at how much muscle the songs get when aired live and the combustible energy the woman possesses. You can hear Nika talk about her music philosophy on our podcast.

Over the course of 70 minutes, Danilova and her accompanying band, including a trombonist, focused on the new album, almost running through it in the same sequence. Because of all the “trees” in the audience, it was hard for me to make out who was on stage doing what.  The sound was the perfect mix, giving the songs more meat with a percussive-heavy presentation.  You wouldn’t be wrong if you thought Alison Mosshart of The Kills’ was on-stage.  Danilova worked the entirety of the small Horseshoe stage and then some; with hair flailing at times one almost feared Danilova’s scalp just might take flight.

After a four year wait the Toronto audience lapped up the new material, turning the venue into a sauna by the end of the night.  Following a brief break from the stage, the band reconvened for an encore that finally touched upon some older material, closing with two Conatus tracks: “Skin” and “Vessel”.

Opening up was Brooklyn’s Deradoorian. An interesting set that had to contend with some seriously obnoxious crowd chatter.  The band’s quirky songs took time to warm up to, but for the most part were interesting and compelling, not surprising that front-woman Angel Deradoorian has previously worked with Dirty Projectors and Avery Tare’s Slasher Flicks.  Although it was unfortunate that one had to struggle to hear some of the intricacies of the music, Deradoorian and company didn’t give the chatter the time of day.

Thanks to Collective Concerts for media access.

About author

Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.