Bat for Lashes, Picture House, Edinburgh
Monday 22 October 2012
“How are you?” asked Natasha Khan tentatively at one point midway through her set, one of the first of a UK tour in support of her recently-released third album The Haunted Man. “Not too sad?” Anything but.
She’s learned to do weather-beaten, heart-crushing melancholy as well as almost anyone in the business, but at the same time Khan’s Bat For Lashes alias has finally yielded an unerring accuracy for simple, resonant beauty.
Over her recorded life so far, and despite the fact that 2006’s Fur and Gold and 2009’s Two Suns both gathered Mercury nominations, there’s a real sense that the Londoner’s career has been a slow burn rather than an explosive burst into the big time like, for example, her contemporary, spiritual companion and fellow sometime Mercury nominee Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine.
Gone were the bright headbands and the extravagant clothing of her last reinvention now, though - before us stood an overtly mature musician in a black and grey backless gown and a demure, jet-black bob.
An air of bright and unforced sophistication pervaded the music as well, from the opening Lilies to the taut rhythm of All Your Gold and the simple, glistening chords of Laura, a duet between Khan and her pianist rather than an understated full band piece like most of the others.
All were drawn from the new record, but Khan selected carefully from her by now rich catalogue elsewhere: "Siren Song" was one particular standout, its evocation of tenderness rent apart by its character’s ability to stay true (“it won't be long until you break / because I'm evil”) as delicately chilling as many Nick Cave might conjure.
Throughout, what struck was the sheer sense of quality, from the understated but precise musical backing to the ghostly warmth of Khan’s voice, so close to its recorded version but somehow let loose here.
Even the build-up of pace was achieved with seemingly genuine enthusiasm for the fact it was Friday night, with the new record’s crescendo of a title track giving way to the vicious lyrical imagery and joyful, silken electropop of "A Wall", her most familiar song "Daniel" and the groove-laden finale "Pearl’s Dream", all accompanied by Khan’s enthusiastic and more than capable dancing.
So no, no sadness here - just the sense that Khan has reached a new career plateau and that a third Mercury nomination might be warranted in 2013.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Best underrated Christmas movies from Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga