Natalie Mering, who records and tours at Weyes Blood, performs at 9:30 Club on Feb. 27, 2023. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Some of the most captivating musicians seem to be on a journey that takes a lifetime.
Natalie Mering has been maneuvering her own emotional curiosity since she was a child and her parents — musicians and born-again Christians — might have indirectly encouraged her mind to wander in moving the family a couple times before settling just outside of Philly.
With her inherited penchant for renewal and her own itinerant spirit, Natalie would embark on a voyage from place to place, moving coast to coast more than once, evolving from a teenage songwriter to a member of various bands and ultimately into one of the most elegant and mesmerizing artists of today.
Known far and wide as Weyes Blood, Mering visited the nation’s capital on Feb. 27 and before a sold-out 9:30 Club crowd invented a spellbinding semblance, amplifying and expanding the sounds and textures of her past two albums to vivid and gratifying effect.
With (fireproof) candelabras providing a holy luminescence and a red glow about the stage, Mering emerged to raucous cheers and guttural screams from the fans who’d packed into the historic V Street venue to see and hear her.
Her latest album — And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow — is Natalie’s first since the world was altered drastically by the pandemic, and the songs she fit to the new record include unforgettable, sweeping, deeply reflective arrangements that convey her concern about human connection and her resolve to uphold the delicate affection that subsists our own interference.
Listen to Weyes Blood’s newest album, 2022’s And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, via Spotify:
On the cover, a magical depiction of Mering features a gleaming heart within. In a message she drafted for its release and shared on her Bandcamp profile, Mering acknowledged what might be her own filter or even a distraction:
“My heart, like a glow stick that’s been cracked, lights up my chest in a little explosion of earnestness. And when your heart’s on fire, smoke gets in your eyes.”
Last week at 9:30 Club, she’d use the new album’s opener to start the night, and a ruminating “It’s Not Me, It’s Everybody” manifested as therapeutic and illusory as her stunning voice of immortality became more abundant and gorgeous in climbing through this celestial composition.
Each song’s closure prompted victorious, emotionally charged celebrations from an audience made up of fans young and old.
Natalie — a skilled multi-instrumentalist who plays piano and guitar but has thumped the bass too — grabbed her acoustic for the second song, “Children of the Empire,” continuing in track-list order of her new release and her second on Sub Pop Records. Though Mering is clearly the engine of her group, it became clear how much she asks of it as this track in particular swelled and carried on in magnificent fashion and benefited from timely background vocals, layered sampling and orchestral execution.
Watch the music video for Weyes Blood’s 2022 single “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” via the artist’s official YouTube channel:
Natalie was joined by Walt McClements on keys, Dillon Casey on electric and pedal steel guitar, bassist Allee Fütterer, and drummer Jay Rudolph. Though they were hard to discern in the dim light, their contributions were unmistakable. And as Natalie swayed early in the set in her flowing gown, her long hair over her right shoulder, anyone could have seen the allure of such a wonderful inflection blended with exquisite and precise instrumentation.
Much more casual than her magnificent and bold songs might suggest, Natalie showed herself to be unassuming and engaged the crowd early in the night, acknowledging the many young followers who made it into the capital on a weeknight.
With a glorious, hopeful take on “Something to Believe” and the expansively tempting grooves of “Andromeda,” she showcased her 2019 studio album, Titanic Rising, which was the first in what she’s presenting as a trilogy.
While Mering’s second and most recent installment is a shift toward finding purpose at a pivotal time in the world, the record she completed just before the pandemic was, prophetically, an examination of imminent struggle, and that album helped elevate her status to that of a masterful songwriter by way of its critical acclaim.
Natalie forged some notable collaborations earlier in her career, teaming up with Perfume Genius, Father John Misty, and Drugdealer among others. In the time between her Sub Pop album releases, a period encompassing the pandemic, her work expanded in the form of high-profile partnerships as she made music with the likes of Tim Heidecker, The Killers, and Zella Day.
With no bounds on where her sought-after intonation can flourish, Mering clearly appreciates and has been influenced by a wide range of styles. Though her father at one point was making songs that could have augmented the Boogie Nights soundtrack, Mering has said in numerous conversations that the sacred sounds she heard echoing through different churches have had a tremendous impact on her.
At 9:30 Club last week, she offered each selection in ceremonial, hallowed fashion, and with the help of her terrific fellow musicians, she impressed in leading a cinematic, visually appealing and resonant set of music.
With or without her guitar, Natalie shined brightly in the light, and she seemed unfazed by the exuberance of the room. She even downplayed it in keeping herself measured while she and her mates attacked these ambitious songs.
“This does really feel like a Monday, because usually DC is wild,” she said. She commented on the band’s day spent in the capital, marked by depressing imagery of dead presidents on a bit of an already-dreary day.
“Maybe we’ll just get the party started … get the Monday blues out of the way,” she said.
One of her most bold endeavors on the new album and with an astonishing cathedral sound, “God Turn Me Into A Flower” reverberated and shimmered and, here, Mering’s voice took daunting turns to impassion the transformation, or maybe more so the sense of discharge, depicted in the lyrics. It was paired with a projection of the custom visuals created for the song by documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis — the collection of footage was provocative as a backdrop of this striking number.
Revisit Weyes Blood’s 2019 studio album, Titanic Rising, via Spotify:
Natalie’s developed a wide perspective, and with it, apparently, a salient sense of humor. Encouraging the audience at one point to guess her astrological sign, she grabbed ahold of one peculiar suggestion:
“I am an asparagus, thank you very much,” she thought that was entertaining, adding something about “asparagus” with “butternut squash … rising.”
Though half the room seemed to know her birth month, she revealed herself to be a Gemini and proposed that her fans devise “a new bogus system to categorize” traits that try to project the possibility of matches. It seemed appropriate given the gravity of her subject matter, stretching back to her 2011 debut as Weyes Blood — she’d used different takes on the moniker since she was 15 — and then her two records released on Mexican Summer.
The night saw an assortment of DVDs offered up to the band, a response to Natalie’s request via social media that fans bring movies to her shows — so that the group has something to watch on the bus riding from city to city.
One patron was even thoughtful enough to bring a copy of The Fabelmans; Natalie was moved by the gesture.
“I didn’t think anyone would pay attention.”
But her fans seem to watch her every move, infatuated.
“You’re fucking beautiful!” an extremely loud woman shouted from the balcony.
“Yes, you are!” agreed another from the first floor.
Mering shrugged it off, suggesting she was progressively becoming deaf due to so much time spent near speakers.
It set the mood for the rest of the set, including more standouts from her new record. And thanks to some custom costume alterations, a bright light would truly shine from her core, just like on the cover of the album, timed for a “Hearts Aglow” set closer.
Gifting white roses to audience members, and then delivering a two-song encore comprised of two more favorites — “A Given Thing” from her latest and “Everyday” from the Titanic Rising — Mering put the finishing touch on not just a compelling set, but an unforgettable experience from start to finish.
With a bolting trajectory and seemingly no ceiling to her creative prowess, Mering is a blossoming visionary and one growing her influence as a courageous songwriter and graceful performer.
It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody
Children of the Empire
Something to Believe
God Turn Me Into a Flower
A Lot’s Gonna Change
The Worst Is Done
A Given Thing
Here are images of Weyes Blood, along with the night’s opening act, Molly Lewis, performing at 9:30 Club on Feb. 27, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.