Chelsea Wolfe’s dark songs transport a rapt crowd Downtown

Wolfe takes her Vegas fans on a trip.
Photo: Spencer Burton
Chris Bitonti

Three stars

Chelsea Wolfe August 27, Backstage Bar & Billiards.

It’s Thursday night, and I’m sweating inside the steaming Backstage Bar & Billiards, surrounded by an anxious, near-capacity crowd as the smell of artificial smoke permeates the room and Chelsea Wolfe takes the stage. Compared to her last time in town, opening for Queens of the Stone Age at the much larger Joint, tonight’s setting is the most intimate you’ll find on her national tour, which kicks off here.

As Wolfe and her band move forward, you feel the weight of the bass pulling your gut as druggy distortion splits your chest like the grind of a rusted transmission. The slow music evokes a dark sadness Wolfe embraces and carries like the modern gothess she is. If you need speed or flash, this isn’t the place; patience and endurance take center stage tonight.

Wolfe’s haunting voice can veer from moaning bellow to angelic siren in a single phrase. Time stands still as she sings, never rushing through a slow burn, letting each crash of the drums resonate and fade as she continues the death-march through her catalog. Aptly titled new album Abyss, the LA-based artist’s fifth since 2010, carries the bulk of the hour-long set. The new songs carry forth Wolfe’s experimentation, fusing goth, industrial, doom and ambience. Her swayable, reflective music plays like the soundtrack to a strange and enjoyable noir film in which we’ve all been cast.

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