Zola Jesus | Live Review


It seems Zola Jesus now exists in a delicate state of conflict; between fan opinion, between synthpop and gothic rock.

Zola Jesus’ latest album ‘Taiga’ seems to have divided fans to a questionable degree, as the recent show in the Lantern drew a considerably sparser crowd than expected. It’s unusual for such a prolific artist, but Danilova seems to have responded to any negative criticism with one hell of a live show that simply says, ‘if you didn’t get it, you missed out.’

Drawing the lion’s share of set content from the album in question, Zola Jesus made you swoon with lush, pop hooks before tearing you to shreds. Opening with the title track, a soft vocal ambience pulsated throughout the room as Danilova and band took to the stage. With her head down and shoulders slumped, making an eerily passive stride to centre stage, she had the appearance of someone not entirely in control of their own body. Yet when the drums kicked in, we were all surprise witnesses to the exorcism of Nika Danilova, as she flailed about in a total frenzy.

The set continued in a similar vein, through the oddly danceable ‘Dangerous Days’, the minimalist ode to the ‘Ego’ and the unforgettable ‘Nail’. Whether or not you like the new material, it’d be impossible to be anything but awestruck at Danilova’s impressive vocal range on these tracks.

But it seems Zola Jesus now exists in a delicate state of conflict; between fan opinion, between the mainstream and the alternaverse, between synthpop and gothic rock, between stadiums and dive bars. Danilova is at once a pop starlet and shadowy alt-icon; flawless and invincible on the one hand, entirely vulnerable on the other. These personas seem impossibly intertwined, yet somehow Zola Jesus manages to make it stick.

However, it’s a process of reinvention. Zola Jesus still makes shadowy music, but now they’re shadows created from the light of stage lamps and luminous décor. Perhaps it comes across a tad artificial, but as they balance on the cusp of the old and new, it didn’t sound at all bad from where I was standing.

Check out ‘Dangerous Days’ right here: