Report: Bat For Lashes, Melbourne 2013Bat For Lashes
The Palais, Melbourne
Tuesday 5th February 2013
I had no idea how much fun Natasha Khan would be.There's not much in the UK artist's perpetually doleful promo photos or spiritual ornaments that prepares you for an especially engaging performer. But throughout tonight's show—her first ever headline gig in Melbourne, despite being three albums into her career—a radiant Khan worked hard to engage a quietly reverent crowd. By the time they did erupt in a standing ovation, following the night's celebratory closer 'Daniel', it was as much for what she gave of herself. I could have sworn she wiped away tears from her beaming cheeks as she skipped off stage. I don't doubt half the audience did same.
It took a while though. After the opening, discography-spanning trio of 'Lilies', 'What's A Girl To Do' and 'Two Suns', the sit-down audience sat motionless. Resplendent in a glittering, ruby gown, Khan shimmied, struck poses and generally willed the huge room to connect with her. "You're all sitting very politely," she noted before the moody "Travelling Woman." "Maybe we can get up and have a dance later."
It's not that the audience was unwilling - they were in raptures. There's a lot to soak up at a Bat For Lashes show. Khan and her four piece band move nimbly through a huge range of styles, from trip-hop to torch song to indie pop. Khan flits between percussion, piano and harmonium with aplomb, and while she doesn't have an especially iconic voice, it glides strongly across any inflection or arrangement she turns it too.
"I know you're dancing inside" she posits after 'Oh Yeah', one of the (few) weaker tracks from new album the Haunted Man. On cue a male audience member down the front leaps to the aisle to genuflect the "we're not worthy" pose and she laughs. From there pockets of dancers begin sprout and jiggle throughout the house to her obvious delight. A stark 'Laura' is the glinting emotional apex of the night, the kind of moment that makes it seem the room is holding its breath, and when follow up 'Siren Song' erupts into a blitzkrieg of drums and strobes there seems little sensory terrain left to uncover.
But Khan ups things into a gleeful (baroque) dance party: 'Prescilla', 'A Wall', 'Sleep Alone' and 'Pearls Dream' send the singer reeling across the stage, wringing out any last vestiges of self-consciousness from this Tuesday night crowd. It works, the room aglow with fans in thrall to—not just this singular artist's musical efforts—but her intoxicating ability to reel us into her fantastic and fully realised world. A special night.
Marcus Teague (@marcusTheVine)
Photos: Tim O'Connor
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