The bijou Spitz, resplendent in candelight, seems the perfect venue for Natasha Khan’s spookily eerie yet highly visual performance. An elaborately eyecatching head-dress and two strokes of glittery silver warpaint adorning the Brighton lady otherwise known as Bat For Lashes remind her audience of her background as a visual artist. She takes to the stage with three female accomplices.
Harpsichord chopsticks open Horse And I, beginning a showcase of Khan’s just-released debut album Fur And Gold. Her bandmates swap between pizzicato viola, a marching drum and assorted percussion. A guitar illustrates an atmosphere, leaving Khan’s alluring voice to hold the tunes.
Bat For Lashes in performance is a stripped-down proposition but one that is no less mesmerising than the band on record. Trophy’s handclaps are brought to the fore in the absence of Khan’s vocal sparring partner Josh T Pearson, leaving the song to take on a starker guise.
Technical problems in the form of a faulty guitar lead delay the set at mid-point, resulting in a lengthy pause, and it’s up to Khan to maintain momentum. “Anyone know any good jokes?” she cringes, as eventually some good soul finds a replacement lead and averts disaster. But she has the crowd delighted with the starkest arrangement yet on Sarah – a wooden pole thuds the stage floor as counterpoint to vocal harmonies – and a range of lupine howls heralding the sinister I Saw A Light. Amazingly, nobody made chicken or donkey noises when Khan requested audience participation, and wolf barks and howls coming from the various corners of the venue will go down as one this year’s most memorable gig moments.
A cover of Bruce Springsteen‘s I’m On Fire was barely recognisable. From macho drivetime rock it was transformed into the fairytale mysticism of Bat For Lashes’ deliberate, contrived but terribly good soundscape.
A brief encore and Khan bounds off the stage, happily ambles round the room and chats with all and sundry. Perhaps the get-up gives her confidence in her stage presence, or maybe she simply believes in her creations. She has every reason to.