Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
La Roux at The Drake Underground in Toronto
Frank YangA typical Sunday evening for me can go any number of ways. Catching up on the past week’s television, working ahead a bit on the blog, taunting the cat with a piece of string, whatever. What is not a typical Sunday evening is standing in front of a PA cabinet with obnoxious dance music being pounded into my ears and midsection. And yet, this was my past Sunday at the Drake Underground.
The why was because I had been invited out to see the next buzzy thing in British electro-pop, the ’80s-adoring duo called La Roux, who had been tipped as one of the BBC’s Sound of 2009 acts but who had yet to really begin to capitalize on that cachet – this made a tiny club show like this appealing for bragging rights, if nothing else. So I acquainted myself with their entire recorded output thus far – two singles clocking in at under 10 minutes total – liked what I heard, and off I went.
The DJ went about 20 minutes longer than I’d have liked – dude, when no one is dancing you’ve failed – but eventually gave way as the keyboard half of the band, Ben Langmaid, took the stage to kick off “In For The Kill” and frontwoman, voice and hair Elly Jackson followed soon after. Without a whole lot of material to draw on, their set was necessarily short – just seven songs – but it was enough to get a sense of where their fortunes might lay. On the plus side, they obviously have a distinctive look – Jackson’s coif was as impressively vertical as one would hope – and even separated from her backing tracks her voice is distinctive and impressive, not quite falsetto and with an almost vocoder-ed quality. And while none of the songs quite reached the inescapable catchiness of “In For The Kill”, it was mostly solid material throughout.
On the con side, it was very evident that the live performance end of things was still new to them. Langmaid was fine, hidden behind his banks of equipment, but Jackson never seemed especially comfortable onstage, preferring to perform with eyes tightly closed and microphone in death grip and occasionally working in some tense dance moves. It was good to see that her “no smiling” policy of publicity photos didn’t carry over live – she was friendly in banter if a bit awkward and cracked a couple jokes – but there wasn’t a lot of charisma on display. If there’s a positive side to that, it’s that with her nervousness and rather… eclectic fashion sense, she seemed quite genuine, and that’s not necessarily the first attribute you’d expect to find in potential electro-pop divas.
I’m sure the La Roux live experience will improve with more shows, but if there was ever a case study for a synth-based act who could benefit from some more live instrumentation, it’s them. They should look up to the top of that BBC list at Little Boots for an example of the difference a live drummer can make. Either way, I do feel fortunate to have gotten to see them perform such an intimate show – when their debut album is released in June, I’m sure that the hype will buoy them to much larger performances. I just hope they’re ready for them.
The Times has an interesting feature following La Roux as they try to convert buzz into hype into real success.
Natasha Khan discusses the distinctive style of Bat For Lashes with The Quietus. Scotland On Sunday and Digital Spy also have interviews. Two Suns is out today and their April 25 show at the Mod Club is nearly sold out.
So Neil Young’s new one Fork In The Road is finally out today – don’t y’all trample each other at the store getting a copy, now – and in addition to the little webcam videos he’s been making for the songs, there’s also a mini-film entitled Get Around which basically features Neil driving his Lincvolt around America whilst singing along to the album. They do use better quality cameras, however. You can “rent” the thing at Jaman and while you have to register, it does appear to be free.
Trailer: Get Around