Blood Orange Live @ The Moore Theatre w/Empress Of
September 15, 2018, Seattle, Washington
Words and Photos by Victoria Holt
I first saw Blood Orange at Coachella in 2014 after a random person highly recommended them. I was photographing the festival that year and had been told that they were great performers who’d make for great shots. I loved their moves and fell heavily in love with the music, too.
In subsequent years I’ve really enjoyed playing their song “Uncle ACE” from Cupid Deluxe when I DJ. I love the way it builds and builds, the funky guitar layers getting more and more eccentric before a barrage of discordant sax notes blare as it fades out. I love songs where everything blows apart, but in the best way possible. It’s probably in my top ten songs of all time.
Live, the music of Blood Orange is just as memorable. I remember being blown away that first time I saw Dev Hynes’ guitar solos and the urgency with which he played, totally commanding the attention of an otherwise exhausted crowd in the relentless heat (see older tracks like “I’m Sorry We Lied” from 2011’s Coastal Grooves). Add to that the band’s gorgeous harmonies and it was this amazing balance of impassioned intensity and refreshing, lilting vocals. There’s something at once delicate and heavy about it all, and it’s amazing to witness that alchemy live.
On September 15 in Seattle, the band sounded amazing during their first-ever Seattle performance. Hynes was in fine form, blowing everyone away whether on grand piano, guitar, keyboard, or singing. The other vocalists Eva Tolkin and Ian Isiah complimented him perfectly. Tolkin provided stunning duet vocals and Isiah gave a knockout performance of the Negro Swan track “Holy Will,” a reworking of the Clark Sisters’ gospel song “Center of Thy Will.” The crowd was so taken with Isiah’s soaring range that bursts of screams and whistles nearly drowned out the song, as Hynes and Tolkin grinned from the shadows.
Hynes fosters a deeply collaborative vibe on stage where he passes the spotlight around from musician to musician and never lets it rest on him for too long. He almost seems shy at times when he keeps his head down or only glances briefly at the crowd from time to time. However, no matter how reserved he might be acting, he always lights up during the most exultant or emotional moments in the music. During “Best To You” from Freetown Sound, Hynes animatedly banged out a staccato sequence on the grand piano, grinning as he watched Lorely Rodriguez of the opener Empress Of perform her earworm guest vocals. The crowd loved it, singing along to every word as Rodriguez bounced around the stage clearly having a blast.
Here are some of my shots of Blood Orange and openers Empress Of. Find more photos in the album on our Flickr page.