Three albums in, and at the age of 33, Natasha Khan has been in the game long enough, to cultivate a rich, distinctive sound. Debut album Fur and Gold was well-received, but follow-ups Two Suns and last year’s The Haunted Man - which consolidated her phantasmagorical sound into an effortless, distinctive whole - gained real critical acclaim.
That self-assuredness carries through on stage and, although a few of the more overreaching moments shoot out of orbit, it’s hard not to be won over by Bat For Lashes’ energy and eccentricity.
On opener "Lilies", she sounds most like Björk - down to her amphoric inflections - to whom the comparisons to girls-gone-before is one of the less lazy. Her theatricality sets things off nicely, before she hops back to the playful first album goth-pop of "What’s A Girl To Do". All choral swirls and twinkling harpsichord, the sound and visuals tie neatly, as she bends and juts her elbows, striking yogic poses against a black velvet backdrop scattered with LED stars. Shedding the cape, she reveals a sparkly pentagram necklace.
"It’s going to be a very special night," she says in breathy Kate Bush tones. Introducing "Bat’s Mouth" as "an old one", followed by "Oh Yeah" ("a new one"), Khan betrays a pick-and-mix approach to her music and her influences. This is a strong asset, but it can see her sound veer a little off-track: there’s a touch of Enya at points, can that ever be good?
"Laura", is beautiful; another example of a maturity found on her new album. A shush goes around the audience as she plays the first, delicate piano chords. As a communal quiet falls, the irony of a sea of mobile phones going up to capture the night’s "moment", while blocking the view, goes unnoticed. Like Khan's best songs, it works like a prism, pulling her talent, influences, and emotion into focus. With the energy of "A Wall" and "Daniel", she just about musters the weary midweek crowd onto her plain.
"This song’s by one of my favourite ladies," she says launching into Fleetwood Mac’s "Rhiannon" as an encore. And perhaps, in Stevie Nicks, she finds the musical predecessor whose style can most guide her, by focussing her magpied sound into three and a half minute pop punches.