Live Music + Gig Reviews

Bat For Lashes @ Barbican, London

24 June 2024

Natasha Khan balances songs from new album The Dream Of Delphi with older selections in a show that alternately pulsates and sparkles

Bat For Lashes (Photo: Michal Pudelka)

Bat For Lashes (Photo: Michal Pudelka)

Natasha Khan released The Dream Of Delphi, her sixth album under the Bat For Lashes name earlier this year, her most conceptual album to date inspired by the birth of her daughter. It struck something of a different note to her other albums, featuring more in the way of instrumental passages and spoken word pieces while also understandably registering as a far more personal album than any of those that preceded it. Tonight’s show at the Barbican saw her revisit some of its strongest moments, slotting them in alongside tracks from across her career.

Support came from British Hong Kong artist Eva Lui under her Mui Zyu name who made an immediate impression with her precocious, svelte fantasy-bedroom-pop. Latest album Nothing Or Something To Die For reconciles chamber-like arrangements with synth embellishments and selections from it are presented confidently tonight and her performance offers further proof of the old adage that you should always arrive in time to see the support act.

When Natasha Khan appears she’s joined by band members Charlotte Hatherley and Laura Groves (of Blue Roses and Lost Horizons) and they perform in front of a colourful backdrop which adds to the stage production like quality that permeates much of the show. They begin with the gentle, piano-led At Your Feet which segues into the title track from the new album. The latter is a synth-propelled opus of sorts, a soundworld to get lost in and arguably her strongest musical statement to date. They both come with added choreographed moves from all three artists on stage, adding to the sense of artful spectacle. Khan has a disarmingly down to earth manner on stage, highly personable and open with her in between song interactions with the audience. Naturally, some of these relate to her daughter but the show never feels indulgent or excessively motherly.

She’s soon dipping into her back catalogue, first with the roaming, exploratory sprawl of The Hunger and the clashing, ricocheting dynamics of Mountain, both from 2019’s Lost Girls album (Khan shares how she’s relishing to play some of the ‘bangers’ from this album which at the time of release was not possible due to the pandemic).

Three from her Mercury Music Prize nominated 2007 debut album Fur And Gold soon make an appearance. The Wizard and Tahiti are both still perfectly formed, Björk-like servings of spectral pop while Sarah sees Khan prowl the stage armed with a sort of staff which she pounds into the stage floor to the surrounding percussion.

They play a minimal version of Let’s Get Lost, the track she recorded with Beck before revisiting 2009’s Two Suns for Daniel (Moon And Moon and Wilderness both follow later). The shimmering Letter To My Daughter brings matters back to the now and showcases a real vulnerability, something that also applies to the Kate Bush-esque, upweighted pirouettes of Lillies.

Kids In The Dark closes the main set, a pure hit of 80s nostalgia and heady, swooning synths. The encore that follows features a stunningly beautiful version of Laura from 2012’s The Haunted Man, one of several moments that confirm beyond doubt Khan’s deeply emotive vocal ability. We depart the hall reflecting on a special evening of songs that alternately pulsated and sparkled.

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More on Bat For Lashes
Bat For Lashes @ Barbican, London
Bat For Lashes – The Dream Of Delphi
Bat For Lashes – Lost Girls
Bat For Lashes – The Bride
Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man