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  • Writer's pictureIva Peric

Breathtaking and Heart-wrenching: Maddie Zahm Concert Review

Last week, I had the pleasure and opportunity to see Maddie Zahm perform her Now That I've Been Honest tour at Thalia Hall; it was everything I could have hoped for.

Leanna Firestone, the opener, is an artist I have listened to before. Her music style is more of a soft, eloquent way of singing. Her voice is smooth, and her music showcases that perfectly. Leanna has a strong following of a specific type of person, as she started with "hey gay people," which also added a little comedic element. As a queer woman herself, Firestone writes music about both parts of her identity: her love for her long-term boyfriend and the queer love she's experienced in the past.

Firestone sang songs like "Vulnerable," "Not Your Favorite Only Child," and "10:15," carrying a deeper, sorrowful sound. She uses her lyricism to showcase her issues within her family identity and her relationship with her parents, her relationship trauma, and her struggles with mental health. She is vulnerable and authentic and carries herself with dignity, which was extremely clear this evening.

Firestone's music also has a heartache aspect, whether her songs about her overwhelming love or the songs about her old love that she's healing from. "Love of My Life," "Foreverever," "Smitten," and an unreleased song named "Cool" are excellent examples of this. "Cool," the unreleased song and her finisher, was exceptionally breathtaking. Firestone used a vocal 'hitch' aspect. The sound goes down a slide, stops, and falls to the floor. Something that can only be described as magnificent.

Maddie Zahm was just as eccentric, with her music clinging to a more melodic aspect. She walked out, opening with the song "Blind Spot." Chills. Her voice has power. "Blind Spot" describes Zahm's desire to cling to a relationship that no longer serves her; she is "begging." This song was the perfect opener, setting the tone for the rest of the evening; the crowd went crazy. She then goes into a song from her new album Now That I've Been Honest: "Eightball Girl." She sings about a confusing woman-loving-woman (WLW) relationship, which resonates with much of the audience. She sings, "[w]hat keeps happening between us, [w]ouldn't happen between friends," with the rest of the song following this melancholic expression of her bewilderment.

Zahm follows this pattern of gloomy dedication to love with the songs "Lights On Kind Of Lover," "Missing You When I Die," and "Pick Up the Phone." She talks about romance and loving herself but also brings family love and regret. Zahm's songs contain messages weaved eloquently, and her voice encapsulates them in a shell of power and silk. Between each song, Zahm also uses her space to explain why every song has a meaning to her; she sets it up in a personal but relatable way so the audience can process what the message means to her as well as to them. She then goes into a song called "STEP ON ME," which is filled with more anger than before. She fits lyrics like "[y]our life only got good when we got bad" and "tell everyone it's my fault"; words that hold gallons of hurt because of how she was betrayed.

As a queer woman that was brought up in Christianity, Zahm holds a lot of religious trauma and religious guilt. Her songs "Where Do All the Good Kids Go?," "Growin' In," and "Pocket Bible" all share this theme. When she was younger, she had a purity ring that she would wear and a pocket bible she would carry around; she felt as if God was the most important thing for her. However, as she grew up and started to develop her identity outside of the church, she realized that He could not be there for her the He used to, and how she has to let go of her religious identity to feel safer in her queer one. It was hard-hitting. The despair in her voice knows hurt, something that is so personal to so many "girls, gays, and theys" as she would say.

Having this identity myself, it was heartbreaking to hear something that so many of us go through, and how she deals with the heartbreak she has not only for her loss of religion, but her loss of her old self; she is not who she used to be and this is the mourning. Webbed within her songs of religion holds an unreleased gem: "Anyway." Zahm's music theme stays consistent, but her wow factor only increases. Her breath control is insane.

Zahm's music is heartfelt, melodic, and relatable. She carries themes throughout all of the bad she has gone through, and she executes them perfectly. She talks about her struggles with self love through "Fat Funny Friend," a song which I heard first on TikTok during 2020 COVID, and "You Might Not Like Her," a song that I was late to the party for, but am clinging onto. A concert of two queer women singing and telling stories about their troubles with self-love, romantic love, religion, and more, is the perfect safe space -- the atmosphere, not only in the music but within the audience as well, was immaculate. Fans singing along and screaming the lyrics in a way that felt so raw. Everyone was connected.

Zahm often apologized for the state of her voice, as she had a cough that day, but it was not evident in how she performed. The whole experience blew my mind again and again. From Leanna Firestones more playful tune, to Maddie Zahm's somber side, it was the perfect watching experience, and I couldn't have asked for anything better.


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