featuring Salt Cathedral
February 24, 2019 at Brighton Music Hall
The night became one continuous, blissful stream of music as Empress Of expertly transitioned from one song to the next.
Walking into Brighton Music Hall, I immediately found myself looking at a man blowing bubbles as he mindlessly grooved to the music of Empress Of’s opening act, Salt Cathedral. I was perplexed: are bubbles even allowed in venues? But after a few seconds of watching those bubbles float up and away to the tropical electro-pop tunes permeating the space around me, I started to understand and settle in. Halfway through their set, Salt Cathedral’s frontwoman, Juliana, stopped the set to announce that she was so excited to be a part of a “female-fronted tour,” and the crowd cheered in response. It seemed like the audience and I were in a small, intimate paradise that had been created by the Colombian-duo up on the stage.
When Empress Of finally made her headlining appearance an hour later, she expanded on that paradise and turned the night into a blood-pumping DJ set that was bursting with feminine energy. Starting out with “Trust Me Baby,” the first single off of her recent LP Us, she showcased a performance style that was visually pared down but full of high musical energy. The small stage was set up with a small bundle of electronic drum pads, synthesizers, and cymbals. Empress Of and her only bandmate that night, Erin, faced each other and played together in an affectionate groove, with the Honduran-American singer hitting cymbals and activating beats and samples as Erin covered the synth and drums. The two even wore the same outfits, proudly designed by Empress Of herself. It was a mesmerizing experience to watch two women carry a high-energy show, mainly because I couldn’t think of another time when I had seen such a performance.
Empress Of sang and played her music with confidence, occasionally moving away from her instrument setup to sway in front of the crowd or jump around enthusiastically during her more upbeat songs. “It’s so nice to be back in Boston,” the Berklee graduate humbly said after playing “Everything to Me,” the third song of the night. “This is a safe place. Be yourself,” she stated to cheers from the audience, as if exemplifying the fact that she was creating an electronic paradise for all to enjoy.
The rest of the night became one continuous, blissful stream of music as Empress Of expertly transitioned from one song to the next. In some spots, the concert was uncomfortably like an EDM festival set: the bass was booming so powerfully that I eventually had to make my way to the back of the venue to try and escape it. Otherwise, it was truly a spectacle to watch Empress Of absentmindedly crash a cymbal while singing and triggering samples at the same time. In one brilliant moment, she used a favorite track of hers, Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next,” to transition between two of her own songs.
This didn’t get as much of a reaction as when she began singing in Spanish for her bilingual banger, “When I’m With Him.” It demonstrated that people had come to an Empress Of show not just for her music, but for the message she projected — whether it’s singing a song in Spanish or demonstrating her creative prowess as a female producer and musician. We came because we heard the paradise that she offered in her music, and that night, she delivered it.
Photos by Kristen Flaherty