Live Music + Gig Reviews

Little Boots @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

13 February 2009

Her 12″ club single Stuck On Repeat came out way back in March 2008. Since then Victoria Hesketh, aka Little Boots, has topped some poll or other and then… had to sit back and await her album release an eternity later in 2009.

After the hype caused her face to adorn magazine covers when scarcely anyone had heard of her, here she was a little closer to earth again, sandwiched in a bill headed by the suddenly equally glittery Eel Pie Islanders Mystery Jets.

As one of tonight’s four acts, Hesketh had half an hour to convince an audience heavy on hair products of her right to draw breath. Like La Roux, Empire Of The Sun and the rest of the artists tipped in that poll she was always going to face a certain amount of arm-folding at a night like this as cynics awaited a promised life-changing event.

But happily, for her first UK gig of 2009, Hesketh showed no signs of giving a damn about either the hype or the sceptics. For one thing she has her trademark toy, the Tenori-on white square synthesiser gadget from Yamaha (see her video demonstration below). Its little white lights fired up as she arrived on stage with a synth player and a drummer, a notably similar set-up to that of La Roux’s live experience. But La Roux doesn’t have a Tenori-on. Score one to Ms Hesketh.

With gothy red and purple lights and an elaborately lettered LITTLE BOOTS logo looming out of the gloom behind her, her sparkly dress and popstar blonde hairdo looked a little incongruous in this setting. The venerable Empire’s scrunchy PA didn’t help her seem any more at home.

But her six tracks of stage time included the frenetic second single Meddle. It hop-skipped along with handclaps and a vocal harmony towards the end that sounded like Radiohead attempting a Gregorian chant, all of it topped off by Hesketh’s fulsome voice that reminded as much of high camp europop as anything penned by the track’s producer, Hot Chip‘s Joe Goddard.

And there was New In Town, which gyrated in the general direction of radio-dominating stickability with its chorus refrain of “I’m gonna take you out tonight”; Love Kills with everyman lyrics of love and loss and a great big chorus; and Every Little Earthquake, another new one. But during all this the Tenori-on seemed to serve more as stage decoration than instrumentation. She’d yet to touch it. Would she play it at all?

She would, albeit not directly; as the floor-shaking synth of Stuck On Repeat ended the set, the Tenori-on’s rows of lights punched out the notes in visual form, activated presumably from some unseen pedal. However it worked, Stuck On Repeat proves to be the set’s unquestionable highlight. It’ll be fun discovering if the other tracks reach its level of pop perfection by the time her debut album finally emerges.

Then she and her sadly underused toy were off for a late session at Corsica Studios, sandwiched once again somewhere in a bill of all sorts. She’ll top those bills next time out, but cynics be damned – by then she’ll have a full set’s worth of material, the PA will be sorted, she’ll do some spontaneous covers on her little white square, and she will deserve to.

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More on Little Boots
Little Boots – Tomorrow’s Yesterdays
Little Boots @ Garage, London
Little Boots – Working Girl
This Music Made Me: Little Boots
Little Boots: “I’m doing everything my way” – Interview