SAN FRANCISCO — Two-thirds of the way through Adia Victoria‘s set at Bottom of the Hill Saturday, the South Carolina-raised, Nashville-based singer-songwriter busted out a song sugarcoated in French. Victoria’s genre was already not easy to pinpoint–a cross between garage rock and scuzzy, reverb-drenched soul–but, after she added the French song (and one or two others) that was reminiscent of ’50s Euro-pop, it became murkier.
But not so to Victoria: “Hello. I’m Adia Victoria, and this is my band,” she purred. “And we’re going to play the blues.”
Adia Victoria has used the blues to reconnect with her upbringings and history, topics she unflinchingly faced head-on with 2016 debut album Beyond The Bloodhounds. At the Noise Pop show, she used the same songs to convey a story that at once seemed personal and universal. Everything about her body language demonstrated a sort of quiet, simmering fire, passion and anger held in place by her lyrics. Her posture was erect and ready to pounce. Her pupils, like two blackened fireballs, highlighted by the whites of her eyes.
Her blues songs ranged from the rollicking “Dead Eyes” and “Head Rot” to Motown jams like “Mortimer’s Blues,” to the dark and menacing slow-burners like “Howlin’ Shame” and “Horrible Weather.” Victoria successfully mixed the song order. Too many slow-burn tunes in a row without a release could have been a mood killer, but she avoided that.
Victoria didn’t do too much talking between sets. Her performance was clearly a personal affair, but she did multiple times thank fans for coming and introduced a couple of the songs. Her four piece-band, dapperly dressed in suits and black ties, each had moments to shine throughout the show, but her emotive drummer stole the show at times with theatrical strikes of the sticks and poses.
Adia Victoria was preceded by talented and equally soulful trio Madi Sipes & The Painted Blue, who had an even larger crowd of supporters—they’re locals. Sipes held center stage while drummer Caleb Koehn and bassist Nick Cunningham built a foundation behind her.
Sipes’ songs were swoon-worthy and Chris Isaac-sensual; at least, when the trio wasn’t making a couple hundred fans dance to R&B-infused pop tunes. Really dance; not the usual jumping in place typical to the Bottom of the Hill. The highlights were many, but only a couple of the songs are found online, so I’ll go with “Sex & Sadness” and “Space,” a sparse masterpiece of heartbreak and unrequited loves with lyrics like “And I crave you always/ But I’ll give you space.” And then they covered the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” And it fit right in with all Sipes’ original material.