If you had taken seriously the relentless hyperbole swirling around Ladyhawke aka Pip Brown four years ago, which included feverish endorsements from Courtney Love and Kylie Minogue, then you’d expect to see her packing out Gaga-sized arenas by now, not playing the first date of her tour to a small audience in the upstairs room of a modest comedy club.
Still, the low-key nature of what those in the business might politely call a comeback no doubt suits the palpably nervous Brown, who takes at least two songs to lift her gaze off the floor and several more to acknowledge the presence of the expectant audience.
It’s clear, given her ear for a precision-tooled pop hook, that Brown could easily have submitted to the attentions of stylists and choreographers and stormed the top ten during her first stab at success, but that wouldn’t have been her style. This 30-year-old New Zealander, whose name refers to a strange Eighties fantasy flick, is no show pony and her abundant self-consciousness, a result of her well-documented diagnosis with Asperger’s Syndrome, proves to be part of her charm.
With her tousled blonde hair and oversized lumberjack shirt, Brown’s look is Kim Wilde passed through the Riot Grrl mincer, an aesthetic reflected in her music which is big on indie-rock guitars and even bigger on the synth-pop and soft rock of her youth, most noticeably Pat Benatar and Cyndi Lauper. Tonight Brown is showcasing songs from her second album, the forthcoming Anxiety, the title of which may well reflect her feelings at this peculiar juncture in her career combined with the torture that is live performance. Previously unheard tracks such as “Blue Eyes,” “Girl Like Me”, “Vanity” and “Vaccine” performed by Brown with her head bowed over a fairy-light smothered mic, bode well, revealing a grittier, dirtier sound than of yore, a nod, conscious or otherwise, to the punchy, fuzz-filled femme-rock of L7 and The Breeders. In a rare moment of chattiness Brown reveals that “The Quick and The Dead” is “about zombies”, which possibly offers another clue as to her failure to hit the big time, murderous, swivel-eyed corpses rarely being the stuff on which pop dreams are built.
Elsewhere, Brown revisits the much-trumpeted highlights of her debut album, with “Professional Suicide” and “Paris is Burning” recalling the icy synth pop of Gary Numan. Given her reticence as a performer, Brown remains a hard sell in an industry inhabited by pushy drama school graduates hell-bent on fame. Then again, going on the strength of her songs, she would seem capable of playing the long game.
Touring until 11th May.
This article features Listen with Spotify