La Roux, Notting Hill Arts Club, London
Monday 16 February 2009
So girls, you want to make it big in music now that the death knell for guitar bands is sounding? Judging by recent successes – Ladyhawke, Little Boots and Lady GaGa, to name but three – you could be forgiven for thinking it's as easy as giving yourself a quirky moniker, grabbing some synths, a keyboard and laptop and being heralded as the new sound of pop. A strong look is also essential, with these girls respectively resembling Stevie Nicks as re-imagined by Skins, Princess Leia meets the Left Bank and a drag queen. Just don't forget to write some deliciously catchy electropop tunes, too.
Perhaps the most exciting of these cyber sirens is a 20-year-old from Brixton, Elly Jackson, who along with her silent partner Ben Langmaid, is La Roux. She is certainly one of the most stylish, as anyone who has seen her fabulously Eighties-inspired videos will attest. Jackson has collaborated with a team of east London creative darlings, including the stylist Nova Dando, who has worked with M.I.A and Klaxons, and has emerged as a sort of Tilda Swinton-Agyness Deyn hybrid.
Tonight, with her red hair in a Flock Of Seagulls-like coiffure, jacket with Miami Vice-style scrunched-up sleeves and splashes of gold jewellery, the get-up makes you wonder if you might have stepped into a time-warp rather than the cramped basement of the Notting Hill Arts Club.
Onstage with her two keyboard players, she goes straight into a blistering rendition of her Eighties-derived new single "In For The Kill". Her beautifully piercing voice is on fine form and she is so cool and so tough that when she later apologises for being late with a very polite "thank you ever so much for waiting", it comes as a surprise.
There are a few sound problems, but the frontwoman rides them out, even through the more vulnerable tracks such as "Armour Love". Her first single and best track tonight, "Quicksand", turns the room into one writhing mass, during which La Roux teeters on the edge of stage, teasing the audience and clearly enjoying the adoration.
That's what marks La Roux out. She brings heart to electropop, a notoriously emotionally moribund genre of music. It's a shame to finish on "Bulletproof", perhaps the weakest song of the night, but she leaves the crowd crying out for more. La Roux still has much to learn, but touring the UK next month as Lily Allen's support act should get her music out of the underground basement and across to a bigger audience. Exactly where it deserves to be.
Touring to 2 April (www.myspace.com/larouxuk)
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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