Zola Jesus miraculous at Central United
By Therese Shultz
Central United Church was filled once again on June 23 as the venue was taken over by the haunting and ominous sounds of Zola Jesus. Nika Roza Danilova, lead songstress from the band, appeared to her audience in a strange white cotton over-gown and bandaged legs, resembling a part of the band’s name; the holy saviour himself. Playing to a decent turnout of about 200 Danilova and keyboardist Alex DeGroot lit up the large church hall with their incredible brand of electronic, gritty and ethereal rock ballads. Zola’s music was framed primarily by heavy base-line build-ups and eerie echoing vocals. One could only describe the atmosphere as tension-filled and heavy as Danilova often teetered across the stage as though she was writhing in pain to her own lyrics. Danilova certainly had a flair for the dramatics as she expelled her songs one by one with exorbitant emotion. Her voice seemed to fill the hall with an angst that covered everything including her audience; its influences undoubtedly those of the voices of Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bjork. As Danilova reached the climax of her song “Sea Talk” it became an intense release of emotion as she began to scream loudly into her microphone as if she was exorcising demons deep within herself. As Danilova and DeGroot made their way through the majority of Stridulum II Danilova’s performance progressed from an almost stiff and solemn state to that of an absolute impassioned fervour. The audience was captivated and still throughout most of the performance because they were compelled by Danilova’s running across the stage, jumping about on speakers and later resembling that of a ghost as she sombrely walked her way through the aisles and the pews up to upper levels of the church singing from the places she could produce the most echo. What made Zola Jesus’ show one to remember was the impeccable theatricality and energy that Danilova was able to produce, the skill of her voice and her ability to sing despite running this way and that. Zola Jesus’ music can really only be described as powerful and filled with trepidation; it is as though you are walking through a dark forest without a clue as to where you are. The dark follows and swallows you up, as Danilova’s voice does, and points you towards a light where the end of the concert which provides you a sort of catharsis. Zola Jesus melds together a tremendous blend of layered synth instrumentals and epic vocal climaxes, it’s as though Danilova expects to resurrect you with her voice at the end of her performance. This was definitely a show to be remembered from Sled Island Day 2, and one that will put Zola on the must see list of concerts for 2011.