Kyla La Grange - KOKO, London
Like too many of the next big things, the buzz around Kyla La Grange points towards an artist who’ll be pigeonholed too easily. Song titles like ‘Vampire Smile’ don’t help her cause – first impressions are of an insipid singer-songwriter for the Twilight set. Her first tracks offer some redemption: despite her affected vocals and the prevailing angst of her lyrics, the ballsy guitar brings to mind Anna Calvi or even PJ Harvey, while some of her choruses could rival Florence. This “stripped back” support slot was a chance to seek out the unique artist lurking beneath lyrical platitudes.
Some of the hype describes her music as darkly intense, which on stage is largely absent in a show primarily defined by its lack of nuance. Her backing band – kitted out as if for a Topman ad – offer proficient support, but seem, in line with their fashion choices, to lack anything distinctive or original. Perhaps the generic accompaniment is meant to direct the audience’s gaze to La Grange, but if anything the opposite happens. Her banter is huskily polite, but doesn’t hold the attention.
These negatives only distract from, rather than spoil, her better features. It’s clear from the outset that Le Grange is primarily a singer. (Her guitar work, if impressive, is lost in the live mix.) Hers is a fresh voice, magnetic in its intensity throughout highlight ‘Heavy Stone’ and boasting a bewitching higher register, best exhibited during ‘Been Better’. Despite a few rousing interludes, though, these features are too often obscured by the general character of a performance that lacks individuality. La Grange needs more time to find a musical niche – then she might really warrant excitement.