Bat For Lashes - Cardiff University Great Hall
It's Friday night and 99% of Cardiff's population are looking to par-tay and kick off the weekend with a traditional session of binge drinking and arse baring on the high street. The other 1% are split evenly between watching Autumnwatch on BBC2 and seeing Bat For Lashes in the University.
Yeasayer, who defy definition, are handed the task of warming up a sizeable crowd and they don't make a bad job of it. They certainly don't lack ambition and, while their layers of instrumentation get somewhat cluttered in an unflattering mix, their eclectic tribal rhythms and retro synth pop are politely received.
Bat For Lashes up the ante though and, from the moment that Natasha Khan takes centre stage, transform the rather jaded surrounds of the Great Hall into a feast for the eyes. It takes no more than the simplest of conceits, a smattering of dry ice and judicious use of coloured spots, to create the mystical environment from which Bat For Lashes hail. Yes, I know they are only from Brighton but Khan's Mercury nominated Two Suns album was conceived on another plane, somewhere further in to the mystic East than the Sussex postcode range extends. Just cast your eyes around the hall as the band sway through 'Sleep Alone' and 'Wizard' and you'll see sights from a bygone era, namely women of a certain age grooving away like a water damaged spool of the 'Spirit in The Sky' video.
The goth-lite synth pop of the much derided '80 is, of course, where Bat For Lashes spiritual home lies. Just listen to the glacial guitar lines of 'Daniel', which could have come straight from Pornography, or the trenchant synth stabs of 'Siren Song' which recall latter day Sisters of Mercy. Vocally she's more Bjork than the oft mentioned Kate Bush and the effect of her stunning voice is beguiling. Unfortunately when she stops singing then things fall immediately flat as Ms Khan has no rapport with the audience whatsover. It is a shame but then she's got a tough job in carrying the whole show on her shoulders whereas Bjork always had the insane stage presence of the other Sugarcubes to fall back on in her nascent career. It is a minor quibble but there are points in the evening where the audience is rather left behind, an example being the delay in starting 'Siren Song' as the auditorium chatter was louder than the on-stage piano. Perhaps the show, and it is a show more than it is a regular gig, would be better suited to bespoke concert halls than student union bars. Nonetheless, the evening is a success and recent album tracks such as 'Glass' and 'Two Planets' are afforded new life through powerfully dynamic, live arrangements which hint at more interesting things yet to come from Natasha.