“It’s four years since we played in London,” marvels La Roux’s Elly Jackson at one point in tonight’s show. As she at long last begins the tour which heralds the release of her second album ‘Trouble In Paradise’, it’s clear that time since her 2009 debut has been well spent.
The tone is firmly set from the opening track: Jackson strides on, sleek and confident, bright red jacket setting off her swept quiff, and begins the smouldering breakup ballad ‘Let Me Down Gently’ with its hydraulic beats, gaseous textures and breathy backing vocals.
Like the rest of ‘Trouble In Paradise’, it’s intense, charged, sensual, and solid gold in terms of melody and chorus, with a wounded heart pulsing beneath the synths.
Jackson’s lost none of her stage command, either, her sharp and snappy moves all Tinkerbell Jagger. There’s certainly plenty of opportunity to throw shapes to the likes of the cheekily shunting ‘Kiss And Not Tell’, which comes off like a heavy Bananarama.
For Jackson hasn’t said goodbye to her favourite decade, the 80s, yet (though she has said goodbye to former songwriting partner Ben Langmaid, in a less than amicable, and to be honest, less than noticeable split). In this, her long delay has served her well.
Another helping of synthy-sweet 80s pop a couple of years after her debut might have seemed desperately old hat, but since then, the much-debated retro circlejerk of chillwave has come and gone, and now it’s like no one can even be bothered to care about whether wholesale reconstruction of an era is a good or bad thing.
And it’s hard to muse or care with tunes like this. ‘Cruel Sexuality’ is a thumper, a romping, faintly countryish verse offset by a soaring, plaintive chorus with the tropical garnish that decorates much of ‘Trouble In Paradise’. Even better is the unpromisingly titled ‘Sexotheque’, a bubbling tale of a lover lost to sordid night thrills, with a throat-seizing rush of a vocal climax.
Then there’s ‘Tropical Chancer’, a moodier, sassy kiss-off with a New Orderish synth breakdown and big drum cascades and cymbal crashes and album opener ‘Uptight Downtown’ which makes very, very good on its pilfering of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ guitar sound.
The only new song which isn’t a total belter is the longer, more aggressive ‘Silent Partner’, but even that charms with a “Bat-MAN!” blare of synth horns - the new songs are full of such charming little details. And then of course, there’s the smattering of old tracks - as well as the hits, there’s the album tracks that sounded like hits at the time - ‘Colourless Colour’, ‘Tigerlily’, and then a brilliant ‘Bulletproof’ to close. Another advantage to taking so much time away is that, on return, Jackson and her formidable band are as hungry for the old songs as they are for the new.
Just one more point to leave you pondering, as you walk into the night, whether it’d be better if all musicians were forced to take five-year breaks between albums.