She sweats, swears, drinks cider and doesn't take any nonsense from blokes; the gangs of teenage girls at the Electric Ballroom have found a new anti-heroine in Lush's Miki Berenyi. After garnering commercial success with the album Lovelife's caustic tales from across the gender divide, the flame-haired singer has eschewed the gawky shyness of yore for confident wot's-he-like? swagger.
Spotlit in iridescent hues, Berenyi - vibrant in light-reflecting mini - renders her black-garbed cohorts faceless. This isn't a difficult task, given that guitarist Emma Anderson and bassist Phil King shuffle around with worldweary ennui in the best shoe-gazing tradition, while drummer Chris Acland, head thrown back, calls up reserves depleted by a month of non-stop national touring. Nevertheless, theirs is a set benefiting from such laboured fine-tuning. Increased instrumental confidence has resulted in assured, densely structured guitar sounds - a solid basis for Berenyi and Anderson's ethereal harmonies. Instrumentally, Lush have developed a new edge, which is just as well, for Berenyi's high-pitched vocals remain as indecipherable as ever.
This, Lush's last British gig before hitting America, marks a return to geographical roots. After failing to meet the high critical expectations following their 1988 debut in the Camden Falcon, the foursome's earlier effects-laden dream-pop orgies have been replaced by something punchier, simpler and tailored for a Britpop audience. And Berenyi is clearly delighted at the transformation. Silencing male hecklers with "shut-up or I'll start shoe-gazing", she launches her guitar into the meowing "Ladykillers", a trite, soft-feminist anthem for new lasses, which, along with "Single Girl", gets women sashaying intensely while the men, including a specs- less Jarvis Cocker, nod along in good-natured confusion.
Drawing on a synth-drenched backing tape for past numbers such as the misty "For Love" and "Deluxe" - more chenille bedspread than blanket of sound - Lush rip into guitar-heavy tracks like a swirling "Undertow" with punk-informed gusto. Dedicating the final song, "Demystification", to the Sex Pistols ("`Cos it's anarchy, sort of, and I feel sorry for them"), Berenyi, perhaps fired by the loss of a contact lens, comes down an octave, flattens her vowels appropriately and sings: "Don't come round unless you've got what I want." But for all the confrontation in the lyrics - what one could make of them - Lush's stab at consciousness-raising is saucily parodic rather than genuinely threatening. But a swift, well-crafted set proved that tonight, musically at least, Lush have reclaimed NW1.
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