Zola Jesus’ live show sails past the recorded version

Nika Roza Danilova thrashed and glided across the Bunkhouse stage.
Photo: Spencer Burton

Four stars

Zola Jesus March 7, Bunkhouse Saloon

Nika Roza Danilova is thrashing around the stage, dark strands of hair covering her face like that creepy girl from The Ring. In the middle of her chaotic rain dance, she falls to the ground, then returns center stage, poised and stoic, cloaked in a black ankle-length dress.

We’re just minutes into the band’s performance, but Zola Jesus is already set on bringing down the house. From The Spoils to her most accessible and most recent Taiga, Zola Jesus’ albums have been too hollow and dissonant (even on the best headphones) for me to sink my teeth into. But tonight, I’m a devout follower. Unlike the recordings, which rely heavily on empty space, the band is gigantic and full and completely satisfying. From the keyboardist to the trombonist, these are all powerhouse musicians—but drummer Michael Pinaud, who hails from Las Vegas, is a truly impressive force.

Danilova glides like a haunted spirit across the stage, that spookiness amplified by the bellowing, emotive yawn of the trombone. During “Dangerous Days” she paces around like a wildcat, painting a picture like a walking canvas. Watching her crawl on all fours, then climb onto the Bunkhouse’s bar for a song, I can’t recall the last time I saw someone throw her entire body into a show. If Danilova’s goal was to bring art to the stage, she succeeded, and then some.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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