Zola Jesus, Dublin, 6 November 2017
During her performance, Nika Roza Danilova apologised to the audience for taking 8 years for an official Zola Jesus gig in Ireland. No apologies needed. Certainly an artist I had waited patiently to see live, and that patience was rewarded generously on a Monday night in Dublin. But before Zola Jesus took to the stage, Devon Welsh was tasked with warming up the audience. An artist unbeknownst to me, the Canadian musician proceeded to perform his set standing amongst the small Whelan’s crowd, solo, with just a microphone and backing track. With a humble and graceful persona, Welsh completely astonished all. His melancholic tone, full of range and power, resonated a massive emotional weight I was not ready for. An artist I’ll be checking out more of for sure.
As the clock struck half past nine, Zola Jesus walked out onto the stage and entered a crouch position on the floor. Dressed in black and grey kimono type outfit, it was immediately apparent that something special was about to go down. At this point, the crowd had swollen significantly since Devon Welsh’s performance and any worries of a low Monday night turnout were forgotten. Danilova mesmerized the crowd with a setlist focusing on some of the strongest material from her back catalogue as well as a fair selection from her latest album, Okovi. “Dangerous Days” from Taiga sounded particularly huge. Forget guitar solos, Danilova performed a noise solo at the end of “Night”. Vicious. A surprise was hearing “Witness” live, such gut-wrenchingly emotional track, I’m sure several spines were tingled and I’m also sure there were a few teary eyes in the audience. “Soak” was immense too. The new material really sounded incredible live and it just reinforced the strength of 2017’s masterpiece, Okovi. Far from being aloof, Danilova’s stage presence was electric, singing directly in the faces of those lucky enough to be front row and also leaping into the audience, rousing vitriolic reaction.
Zola Jesus’s music almost defies classification, being a melting pot/witches cauldron of darkwave, industrial, goth and experimental. There was an aura of beautiful darkness permeating through Whelan’s in Dublin on Monday night, perpetrated by an exceptionally unique and gifted artist indeed.