fri 06/12/2019

Bat for Lashes, St Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton review – a heartfelt homecoming | reviews, news & interviews

Bat for Lashes, St Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton review – a heartfelt homecoming

Bat for Lashes, St Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton review – a heartfelt homecoming

Natasha Khan conjures LA pop myths and South Coast ghosts

The bride wore red: Natasha KhanPhoto: Luke Hannaford; photo below by Logan White

Natasha Khan is ending this intimate UK tour where her dreams first took shape. Study at the University of Brighton began 12 years in the bohemian town, and her twice Mercury-nominated, mythology-minded pop life. She could sometimes be found here in St Bartholomew’s, a vaulting Victorian temple with the supposed dimensions of Noah’s ark, all sunken shadows and glinting gilt, tucked just off London Road’s grubby shopping bustle. It was “a church I used to sit in and have a quiet moment”, Khan tells us. With only a second keyboardist sharing the stage, tonight is a very personal homecoming.

Khan’s fifth album as Bat for Lashes, Lost Girls, digs still further back, into a 1980s childhood where racism and her parents’ divorce encouraged deep immersion in The Lost Boys’ slick daylight vampires, Spielberg’s golden suburbs and grand synth glides. Now living in LA as an aspiring filmmaker, present circumstances and old fantasies have usefully fused in its narrative of a female vampire biker gang.

Lost Girls’ widescreen sensuality and nostalgia is heavily mined, as twin synths and Khan’s voice resonate in the faraway rafters. The consistent threads leading to it are, though, also woven in. Still wearing the red dress of her persona in previous album The Bride, so like something from an Angela Carter fairy tale, two of its songs gain new meaning now. Khan is inspired by her Brighton return to precede “Close Encounters” with a student poem, “Missing Time”, which clarifies its theme of alien abduction as trauma metaphor.

Natasha Khan in the video for Kids in the DarkKhan’s “ode to the English countryside”, “Land’s End”, is then sung by an LA artist missing home’s “fog and rain”. Her exploration of the “eerie” Dartmoor landscape which inspired it, she explains, ended with her equally unsettling, cloaked male guide encouraging “a blessing and a prayer” at an ancient rowan tree. Guitar now in hand, she sings of escaping “city lights” to let “my soul be free and spirit fly”. Her open-minded, all-embracing attitude to religion, spirituality, sexuality and myth feels right at home with a golden statue of Christ hanging above her, and stage lamps which glow like candles. It could be a wildly non-denominational, semi-secular Evensong.

One gorgeous, stark ballad, “Daniel”, is then paired with her best, “Laura”, a classic hit still awaiting its moment. Khan stands at the mic to honour the song’s profound party girl, willing her out of her subsequent comedown into still hedonistic glory, where she can “dance on the tables again”. The melody’s mellow flow adds to a kindly reverence for this fallen star, still riding high in her heart. Based on a friend it uplifted and Warhol’s doomed Superstars, “Laura” is another heightened pop myth.

The final element in a show which promiscuously rummages around Khan’s pop-culture subconscious is three heartfelt 1980s covers. Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” and Cyndi Lauper’s (and Roy Orbison’s) “I Drove All Night” fill in Lost Girls’ hinterland. Unironically venerating a grandiose era, her voice sinks low into smoky sultriness then soars, leaving the songs’ emotional lines simply lucid. Kate Bush’s vital example is honoured with “This Woman’s Work”, with the person who introduced her to it when she was 12 in the audience. Lauper’s poised feminine power – “I drove all night to make love to you/Is that alright?” – equals Bush’s insistence on restoring emotional loss: “Give me these moments back. Give them back to me.”

Khan’s stripped back format in this vast building contains her own pop power, letting it simmer, slow and stately. The covers demonstrate the grateful generosity of an artist just turned 40, but essentially unchanged from the dreaming student she was. That girl’s ghost is invoked so often that she can almost be glimpsed.

Khan’s stripped back format in this vast building contains her own pop power, letting it simmer

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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