Bat For Lashes/Sylver Tongue

The Forum, London - 30 November 2012


[Live photo]Support act Sylver Tongue were a bit prog-rock at times – in a disconcerting way. Their bassist was the thinnest rock chick I think I've ever seen. I was constantly distracted, concerned that some awful injury might befall her; possibly induced by attempting to wield her giant bass guitar too high. I did my best to avert my gaze. FOrmer Ash member Charlotte Hatherley's voice has a touch the Kate Bush about it at times, not so much in the actual delivery but some similar vocal characteristics were evident. To their credit Sylver Tongue are ploughing their own furrow. I'm just not sure how fertile it is.

Out promoting awareness of the third album, The Haunted Man, Natasha Khan's Bat For Lashes project continues to disregard convention and in doing so maintains a welcome position in the UK mainstream alternative firmament. The stage set for tonight's performance was a tad odd, looking like some cheap school play set of randomly scattered green paper mache rocks! Thankfully, we weren't here for the stage but for the performance. And on that front this was superb entertainment.

Issues of topography aside, the stage was liberally populated by a multitude of varied instrumentation. We're talking a lot of instruments. Compared with when I first saw Bat For Lashes, this was considerably more acomplished. Before she'd sung a note you sensed that this was an artist really getting into her stride, exuding a quiet confidence. The third album is a very subtle affair, and whilst it has some unforgettable moments (the title track and first single Laura for example) I didn't find it entirely compelling. Live, however, it was transformed. 

Far more impacting and gutsy. That was in part due to the arrangements used around the extensive liver instrumentation; in part due to the energy that NAME clearly draws from performing live. There's a visible sense of self-belief about Khan's on-stage persona these days. It never becomes a swagger, but there's no doubt who is the controlling creative force out of all those bodies on stage. 

The electrifying rendition of The Haunted Man where the disembodied voices of a male choir can be heard in the background were thrust to the fore on stage with Khan picking up a large wooden 1930s wireless and holding it above her head the same voices, seemingly emanating from the radio, became the absolute focus of the song. Ghostly voices from another time resonating still and the undoubted highlight. 8/10

Bat For Lashes setlist: Lilies, What's a Girl to Do?, Glass, Travelling Woman, Winter Fields, Oh Yeah, All Your Gold, Marilyn, Horse and I, Horses of the Sun, Laura, Siren Song, Prescilla, Rest Your Head, A Wall, Pearl's Dream, The Haunted Man, Daniel

Rob Dyer

dsoaudio YouTube playlist