Live Review: Bat For Lashes / Hecuba at Great American Music Hall – June 13, 2009

Buckets of glitter, antlers, feathers, headbands, horses, capes and wizards are just some of the guesses my companion and I came up with as we waited in line next to the Bat for Lashes tour bus. We’d gotten to the long-anticipated show at the Great American Music Hall a few minutes early in order to secure one of the highly coveted upstairs balcony seats. That gave us just enough time to play one quick round of “What’s in the Van?” as the grumpy doorpeople checked the tickets and purses of the fans ahead of us. Our guesses were driven by the dramatic, elfin persona cultivated by Natasha Khan (the woman behind Bat for Lashes) and her lyrics about emerald cities, singing moons and siren-like women.

Hecuba, a theatrical duo from Los Angeles, opened the show. Isabelle Albuquerque entered the stage wearing a tight grey catsuit and no shoes. Her hair was cut something like a cross between a mullet and a bowl cut. The stage set up was simple. Two microphones, a couple of keyboards, a computer and a seat for the other half of the band, Jon Beasley. From the start, they seemed like two kids in their bedroom, jmping up and down, banging on pots and cutting things with knives. Spazzy and brilliant, they bought a playful madness to the stage. Discordant and poppy, the songs crossed a gospel-style revivalism with sickly-sweet pop melodies straight out of the eighties. At points, the two performers brought things to a fever-pitch with their dedication to the purity of raw performance.

After Hecuba exited the stage, the crowd was warmed up for the entrance of Bat for Lashes. Natasha Khan has an adoring fan base, and the screams started as soon as she got on stage and proceeded throughout the entire performance. Khan plays with a full-band live, including drums, keyboards and auto-harp. Wearing a checkered jumpsuit straight out of a fifth grade yearbook, Khan took a while to warm up into the performance. After Hecuba’s searing confidence, Khan appeared almost shy and reticent. She seemed to be trying out different, slightly awkward dance moves to see which ones worked and which ones didn’t. Live, her voice sounded as soaring and glass-clear as it does on the album, especially on the more ballad-oriented songs, during which she switched to sitting at an electric piano to one side of the stage. The set was a mix of songs from her two albums. She opened with Glass, and did a gorgeous auto-harp solo version of Priscilla from her first album. One of the strangest moments in the set was a strangely seasick version of the plaintive dream-like long song, Good Love. The keyboard went out of tune on that song, or something. The stage decorations: twin lighted angels, star garlands, virgin mary statues, lamps and a wool blanket with a large wolves head and full moon, added a child-like drama to the event, like being in the playroom of the cool girl with the slightly awkward haircut.

With an album as epic as “Two Suns,” it can be hard to recapture the energy live, but Khan did her best. In the eyes of her rabid fans, she could do no wrong. She does seem to be still in the beginning stage of developing her live show and it will be exciting to see how she bridges the dramatic persona of her albums with the Khan that appears on the live stage. The night ended with an soaring version of one of the album’s best songs “Daniel,” a tribute to Ralph Macchio during the Karate Kid years, ending the show with a feeling of wild accomplishment. Like anything could happen and all was good in the world.Leilani Clark

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