I found myself more than a bit chagrined while driving down 95 to catch Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan et al) on Saturday night. Not two weeks earlier had I been informed that Bat for Lashes contacted the promoter for her Baltimore stop at the Ottobar and cancelled. The reason? They were unable to provide speaker power with wattage equivalent to that found in stadium venues.
I have to say, Bat for Lashes used every watt of that power at the 9:30 Club. I felt every joule of energy blasting through every speaker cone in the entire venue. That’s when I realized, detractors who say Khan is aiming for some sort of earthy-crunchy, hippie/hipster fusion demographic have it all wrong. This isn’t easy listening, New Age music. This is all about power and scale. These songs aren’t meant for listening on the bus ride home on medium through ear buds. Every time you put this music on, you should be in an isolation room with no less than 1kW of speaker power, drowning you in a sea of sound. Only then, do you see the forest for the trees.
Khan’s pipes are impressive and glorious live, with clarion power and a mystical, ageless weight. It seems she has the ability to summon her remarkable vocal range from the record to live performance, effortlessly nailing everything from the highs of “Glass” to the lows of “Trophy.” All this aural bluster was accompanied by a light show that spared no mystique, waxing and waning in front of the surreal backdrop of a wolf howling at the moon.The immediacy of the live show was exponentially raised by Khan’s backing band. In particular, her drummer provided no small amount of rich texture and other-worldly bombast to every song. The set was well-balanced, featuring an almost even split between material from Fur and Gold (2007) and Two Suns (2009). Highlights are honestly too difficult to call, as the consistency of her performance was through the roof. If pressed, I’d have to say “The Wizard,” “Trophy,” and “Horses and I” were all beyond reproach.
I’m not the only one who shares this high an opinion, as she has received that oft sought after vindication by a foundational influence. Bjork herself has leveraged the adjective “amazing” at Bat for Lashes’ live performance. The only thing I can fault this show after going in with such a bad taste in my mouth, is that it was far too short. Even including the extra-long encore, this was done in a flash.