Bat for Lashes @ Venue, 8/25/09

Bat for Lashes
If Wikipedia is to be believed, Natasha Khan will turn 30 in two months. Watching her performance last night at Venue, however, the Bat for Lashes singer seemed much younger. The show played out like a schoolgirl’s fantasy: the mic stands were hung with silver tinsel, small statuettes were littered around the stage and the backdrop was a star spangled curtain that depicted a wolf howling at the moon. Khan herself wore glittery makeup and pranced around barefoot, gesturing flamboyantly with her lace-clad hands. Her between-song banter was as charming as it was awkward, as she giggled about school discos, chirping “Will you ask me to dance?”

Khan’s girlish stage presence belied the maturity of her songs, which were delivered with absolute conviction and flawless musicianship. Although there were only four people on stage, they did a surprisingly good job of recreating the lush arrangements and heady atmospherics of this year’s Two Suns. “Glass” began nearly-a cappella, Khan’s ethereal vocals accompanied by only the faint drone of an electric cello. It soon exploded into clattering tribal percussion and swells of synth ambience. “Traveling Woman” was similarly haunting, its plodding piano groove evoking Stevie Nicks at her most world-weary.

Despite these moments of refined beauty, much of show emphasized Bat for Lashes’ dance influences, with several songs stripping away melody and replacing it with densely layered percussion. “Two Planets” was a minimalist tribal jam, eschewing structure in favour of pure adrenaline; with a full drum kit, a floor tom and a tambourine almost drowning out the background synthesizer.

The set rounded out with “Daniel,” its pulsing electro beats and Hounds of Love-era synthesizers finding a middle ground between the group’s disparate styles. Ending the night with the hit single may have been a predictable move, but Khan’s unshakable enthusiasm meant that no one went away disappointed.
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