Natasha Khan is just LOVELY.
I had never seen Bat For Lashes before last night’s show at the Enmore and I didn’t really know what to expect. Since 2009′s Two Suns, I’ve slowly but continually become enamored with all three Bat For Lashes records, including last year’s The Haunted Man (you would perhaps know this already if I had actually published my Best of 2012 list….it still might be coming). So there were lots of songs I was dying to hear – and she played pretty much all of them.
What I wasn’t expecting?
Witnessing a genuine artist not afraid to be joyful, open, and courageous on stage. I wasn’t expecting someone so void of cynicism. Natasha Khan was warm, she smiled all night, and she seemed like a truly genuine human being. Plus she bounced around all night on stage without missing a note. I mean I wasn’t expecting an asshole either…but it was refreshing to see an artist so comfortable with themselves and their songs that they didn’t hide behind feigned aloofness.
Having said that, she did wear a rather colourful skirt and cape that was pared down to, more or less, a bikini-top (and skirt) during Oh Yeah’s mild, opening striptease.
Oh, and she also played some songs that I should talk about BECAUSE THEY WERE INCREDIBLE. The Haunted Man is quite a clean and precise record but on stage Natasha Khan has injected the songs (with her fantastic, multi-tasking band headlined by an incredible drummer) with a lot more power, danceability, and general OOMPH. I mean they weren’t drastically different arrangements or anything but they were just different enough to make you go, “Yes, I see what you did there and it totally worked. Carry on.”
Lilies, the night’s opening song, was a great example. Natasha belted out the song while beating the bass-line out on a synthpad (that’s what I’m calling it) with a drumstick. Those bass notes boomed. By the time the song reached it’s triumphant “Thank God I’m aliiiiiive” moment it was also plainly evident that Natasha Khan can just flat out sing; the first of many goosebump moments.
Over the course of the show most of The Haunted Man was played: Oh Yeah was sultry as hell; All Your Gold was louder and very, very dancey; Horses of the Sun was another vocal masterpiece. About halfway through the show, Natasha, when most bands are playing their We Don’t Mind If You Go To The Bar song, just casually dropped Laura on the crowd like it was no big deal. Holy shit. It was incredible. The applause after that one took ages to die down and Natasha appeared to be quite moved by the response from the crowd (who I think, like me, just fell more and more under the Bat For Lashes spell as the show progressed).
She followed that up with Lumen, a song recorded during The Haunted Man sessions but didn’t quite make the cut (although you can track it down as a bonus track). It was only slightly more busy than Laura with just two band members helping out with atmospheric accompaniment. I always love it when bands and artists dig deep into their catalogue to find some more obscure songs to play; so score another point for Bat For Lashes.
Then another bomb was dropped in the form of Two Suns‘ Siren Song. I’ve always enjoyed this song but I certainly wouldn’t have called it one of my favourites from that album. But it was simply an incredible performance. The way Natasha sneered out the “I’m evil” lines was haunting. And it was just one of six (!) songs off Two Suns played last night and most of them, like The Haunted Man material, were also a little bigger and louder (and perhaps less subtle); but they all killed. The appropriately shimmery Glass was played early along with the piano-led Travelling Woman.
Going even further back, Bat For Lashes also played a few from the debut record Fur And Gold and they were the three I most wanted to hear (more points!). Prescilla, coming late in the set was particularly memorable despite the fact that what followed was just a flawless final five songs. FLAWLESS.
A Wall kicked it all off before Sleep Alone and Pearl’s Dream wrapped up the main set. Each one, somehow, improving on the last. Pearl’s Dream featured some lenghty beat-driven sections which climaxed spectacularly. The band then left the stage with the crowd dying for more (which of course we knew we were getting but whatever we clapped and cheered and stomped).
The band returned to the stage and played The Haunted Man, the centerpiece from the record. The performance incorporated elements of the recorded version, with Natasha holding up some sort of old radio (or something made to look old?) that played the haunting chant from the song’s middle section. When Natasha’s vocal part came up she lifted the radio over her head Lloyd Dobler-style and then belted out the rest of the song. WITH A LARGE RADIO ABOVE HER HEAD. It’s like thought to herself, “Singing isn’t that hard, maybe I’ll exercise while I do it”. We get it, Natasha, you’re awesome, now you’re just showing off. It was an indelible image I will remember for a long time (even after the Instagrams have been pushed down my feed).
One element of the gig that was not surprising was the night’s final song, Daniel. And it was a perfect end to a gig I loved from start to finish. The crowd sang along, danced along, and it was just a joyous, communal experience and the perfect send-off into the muggy Enmore night.
What’s A Girl To Do?
All Your Gold
Horses Of The Sun
Horse And I
The Haunted Man