Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bat For Lashes LIVE

Two hours; TWO BLOODY HOURS. That’s how long it took me to get to Manchester on this occasion. Haven’t Wigan MBC done a wonderful job with their traffic measures? Anyway, I’ve no doubt the Gee kept himself entertained, and we rather luckily did find some free parking right outside the venue in order to be able to pick up the tickets before the box office shut.

A trip into the old days via an “It’s A Scream” pub quickly followed and then it was off to the Royal Northern College of Music for another swift drink before taking our 3rd row seats.

It did seem that some minor problems were holding things up slightly, especially as the “Bat For Lashes will start in three minutes” announcement was followed by approximately fifteen minutes of, well, nothing, whilst various important looking people wandered back and forth.

Still we weren’t privy to what was going on, and nothing seemed untoward as the three musicians and, then, Natasha Khan herself made their way onto the stage. Rather childishly the opening salvo, which saw us treated to a song in French, had me on the verge of bursting out laughing. Not that it was particularly funny or bad in any way, just that it seemed ever so slightly absurd. Still as soon as the band kicked into one of the Fur And Gold highlights (of which there are many) Trophy that feeling subsided and the next hour so was one of delight, wonderment and magic.

It was quite simply, excellent. The first thing that struck me is that Khan is nothing like I imagined her to be in the sense that for all the mystical and “other-worldly” vibes of her album she comes across as a funny and beguiling front-woman, and one who treats the audience as long-lost friends.

The songs are just as impressive, if not more so, in the live setting as well. The band, and Khan herself, switch instruments for virtually every song. Guitars, violins, drums, accordions and various other strange-looking devices (as that Pub quiz proved the other week, identifying obscure musical instruments is not my strong point) were all brought into play. The resulting effect was something rather wonderful indeed.

There wasn’t a duff song in the set, but the particular highlights were a brilliant version of What’s A Girl To Do, the “swamp” version of Sarah (which saw Khan brandishing an evil looking stick as an instrument) and the next single Priscilla. And if to prove that all the instruments aren’t the sum of the show, Khan excelled on the electric piano during a haunting version of Sad Eyes.

We were also treated to a Bruce Springsteen cover, with I’m On Fire which was another winner.

Put simply, this was one of the best concerts I’ve seen in quite some time. I doubt there was a person in the hall that wasn’t completely transfixed. Indeed on the way out there was a definite buzz apparent as if most in attendance were convinced they’d seen something very special indeed.

We also had the pleasure of meeting Miss Khan after the show and I have to say she was utterly delightful….even when Al tried to take a picture of her with a random who’d asked him to do the honours. First time he accidentally clicked the delay button and then he managed to switch the camera off the second time he attempted to take the picture! It took the help of the woman herself to coach Gee through using the camera correctly.

There were no such problems when I took the picture of Al, but again he contrived to take as long as he could when it was my turn to strike a pose. He will no doubt claim that it was an intentional manoeuvre in order to prolong my close embrace, but I think we all know better by now. I mean come on, even Natasha wrote “to the cameraman” when she signed his ticket.

Fickle as I am, Kate Jackson might have found a rival ;-D

But in all seriousness this was pretty much the perfect concert. If I see another one this year that is this good I’ll count myself a very lucky man indeed.

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