Nika Roza Danilova, better known to the world as Zola Jesus, is notoriously petite, possibly standing under five feet tall barefoot. And so, when she sings, there is a tinge of dissonance at first, incredulity at her powerful siren’s wail, an expressive room-filling alto that sounds like it’s been yearning for hundreds of years. At 21, that voice emits a preternatural wisdom, layering humanity under the dark squall of her songs.
At her recent sold-out performance at Brooklyn’s Glasslands on Saturday, she possessed even more electric qualities than ever (though not the laser eye above, unfortunately), proving she’s far afield the realm of the solo noise artist she started out to be. Sporting an almost-perky new peroxide coif, the full band backing her amplified the ambition of her songwriting and made her voice sound even bigger. She struck a fierce stage presence, too, dancing in a stomp-and-sway that seemed like some ritualistic voice-conjuring. And while it was dramatic—even in the sweltering 80-degree humidity, it felt like a night of autumn wind gusts—the synths and vocals almost veered pop, extreme albeit dark melodies that lodge themselves in your head.
Nowhere was this most apparent than show-closer “Night,” the stricken, gorgeous plea that’s probably soundtracked a thousand illicit make-outs and maybe six or seven break-ups. She sounded like some kind of precious eagle flying through a canyon, strong and steadfast, harmonizing with her keyboardist in tragic minor keys. This woman’s voice doesn’t falter—no sour notes, no half-pitch slips—and with the high drama of marching drums and that crazy cloud sculpture, it felt like we were all following her into a magical cotton cave, where we’d form a cuddle puddle and everything would be weirdly, tragically okay.