Zola Jesus Live Review (Boston Globe, 10/19/11)

Posted on November 6, 2011

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Amid howls and moans, Zola Jesus draws a crowd

A battery of synths loomed over the stage as Nika Roza Danilova floated out in a flowing white smock. Above the band, a field of projected white radar rings shuddered as she grabbed the mike, and she let out a long snake moan that would last the whole night as her Zola Jesus project pounded out electronic banks of strings and heavy, primal drumming.

The romantic and industrial Zola Jesus is three albums into a young career as of this month’s “Conatus,’’ but Monday night showed the project in a few different lights. Though Danilova is tiny – and donned sparkling elven shoes – she never plays the part of a wispy fantasy princess. She bounced around the stage, a veil of blond hair over one eye, waving her hands like an R&B queen, stomping and headbanging at any chance. At one point, she descended into the crowd to bop around on her wireless mike and disappeared altogether.

Danilova’s music can sound glacial and somber – brooding pop stuff with mid-tempo beats, really – but the band made a convincing case that it’s not averse to a good time. The digital jungle chirping and thunderous keys in songs like “Vessel’’ conjure Trent Reznor, but when the beats started trucking, shades of everything from teen idol confessionals to bittersweet Springsteen keyboard bashes emerged. A contemporary touchstone for her deep roar is Beach House’s Victoria Legrand (who, like Danilova, grew up training for opera), but fans who let their guard down might hear a little Non Blonde Linda Perry in that howl.

Still, the strongest moments came in the churning, building “Run Me Out’’ and the desert desolation of “Night,’’ which best split the difference between rally anthem and grim fantasy. The electric bass droned heavy and the cutting hi-hats typed out a Terminator beat while Danilova bellowed a time-tested fatal love tale: “In the end of the night I can be with you,’’ she howled, stretching out the “you’’ on her fingers like bubble gum.

Opener Xanopticon pummeled with a terabytes-deep arsenal of shattered laptop beats, cutting them up rapid-fire with bird-like motions of the solo artist’s lanky frame and speedy, knob-flipping fingers.

**

Original article appeared in the Boston Globe here.

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