Ladytron - Cambridge APU
I always have reservations about seeing electronica style bands live - I always get the feeling pre-gig that it's going to be a disappointment, that the clean, soulless, electronic music will somehow be disinteresting and unengaging. However, this evenings keyboard based entertainment was no disappointment and I left the venue with ringing in my ears.
The support acts were up to a high standard as well. Local electronica act Um was first on stage. It takes a lot of guts to do what he does - just him and a backing track on MiniDisc. However, this lo-fi approach is endearing and his on stage personality raises what could be a boring set into something genuinely interesting. His between tracks banter explaining some of the more cerebral of his songs!
The second support act have, quite possibly, one of the worst names I've ever come across; Battant. This London based trio consist of one guitar playing guy, one Siouxsie Sioux sound alike on vocals and another guy playing synths, laptop and electronic drums. These guys sound better as their set progresses, initial feels are out of a Banshees tribute act, but start to find themselves as they become more relaxed on stage. By the end of their short set, the floor is moving and their sounding more like New Order fronted by Siouxsie Sioux! They've not been around for long (they formed in 2004) but given a little more time, we might see a little more of them.
After a small delay, Ladytron take to the stage. Lead singers / keyboardists Mira Aroyo and Helena Marnie are dressed like extras from Bride of Dracula, but in a good way and they rip into High Rise, the first track from their excellent new album Witching Hour. What's most obvious about Ladytron in 2005 is that they've augmented their sound - there are plenty of keyboards on show, but both the lead and bass guitars are high in the mix. The use of a traditional drum kit also adds weight behind the ethereal vocals of Helena. Their sound is still clean and clear though, with the Cocteau Twins being an obvious new influence. Any reservations I had about watching this kind of act quickly evaporate - there's not a laptop in site! It's also obvious from tonights show that they're very pleased with the new album - over three quarters of the songs are from Witching Hour which includes the new single Destroy everything you touch (one of my singles of the year). It's the power of the opening chords of this track that make you glad that Ladytron are back and better than before.
Unfortunately, there were a few things to detract from what would have been an great gig. The first problem was Mira's vocals - two high in the mix for the songs she sang and also, her voice sounded really out of key. I understand she's meant to be a contrast to Helena's Cocteau Twins style, but tonight it grates and it's very disappointing that the set finishes on one of her numbers. The music carries her, moving the crowd, but unable to drown out the drone of her voice. My second problem was with Helena turning away from the crowd whilst singing. In my mind this just alienates the band from the crowd and I think it's one of the reasons why the band didn't quite connect with the crowd tonight. It was almost as if they weren't enjoying themselves and only seemed to really get into it during the encore of Seventeen, where Maria and Helena joined at the centre of the stage, their voices complimenting each other for the first time.
I don't want to detract from what was a great set though and these were just minor quibbles as Maria only sang on 2 or 3 songs. The music was loud and tight, with a real energy for an electronic/keyboard based group. Let's just hope that Ladytron can build on this new sound and develop into something special.
Pictures courtesy of Phil Day