Photo: Shirlaine Forrest
Natasha Khan is not the first lady of pop to try and pull off Paganism as a musical gimmick, and nor will she be the last. Stepping to the front of the stage at the rather ceremonial Roundhouse this evening, Khan – dressed in black spandex leggings, swimsuit and a gold cape that coruscates with sequins – looks like she’s stepped off pop’s production line of shamanistic concepts.
Like Kate Bush, Bjork, Madonna and, dare I say it, Enya, before her, Natasha’s dabble with occult-inspired pop has become somewhat of a paradigm in ritualistic sound and showmanship. Touring once again off the back of her Mercury Musical Prize nominated albums Gold And Fur and Two Suns, her Bat For Lashes ensemble consisting of multi-instrumentalists Charlotte Hatherley and Ben Christophers, produce a rather prescribed performance on the night.
The audience stand static in reverence, as smoke fills and projected moons alight the darkness of the stage as Khan opens up her cape and lets it drape around the back of her stool, leaning in to her piano and microphone to open with the brooding ‘Horse and I’. Veiled behind her thick fringe and myriad of pseudonyms, it’s easy to see the allure that she has stood before the demographic-spanning crowd in attendance: with a degree in music and visual arts, Natasha’s informed sound and vision in astutely repackaging pop along with its colourful imagery amounts to something that is eccentrically obscure, yet commercially appealing.
As she howls at the bells that she holds aloft, a strategically positions fan causes them to chime the intro to a haunting rendition of ‘The Wizard’, as her hair flows longingly behind her, revealing the 29-year-old’s face and connecting her with the crowd through all the smoke and mirrors. “Shall we carry on with a little more dancing?” she asks merely as a polite gesture to crowd, as she twists and contorts in a Kate Bush-like manner as she launches into ‘What’s A Girl To Do’ – one of a number of revamped songs on the night thanks to her adept band of musicians.
The night’s performance is a solid exhibition of Bat For Lashes achievements so far, producing a well orchestrated set that ebbed and flowed with ease and maturation. From the careless whisper of ‘Tahiti’ to the rousing thrum of ‘Siren Song’ to the ambient electro disco of ‘Daniel’, Khan’s euphonic vocal deliverance throughout the hour left the crowd endeared and in awe.
Even the TV screen that was rolled on during the encore to reveal her alter ego Pearl, whom she duets with on ‘The Big Sleep’, had enough artistic licence about it to be pulled off on such an occasion, even if it did cause mass confusion amongst the punters.