Bat for Lashes/Polly Scattergood, Roundhouse, July 19th
Polly Scattergood played the Roundhouse on July 19th
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Wednesday, 22, Jul 2009 06:46
It's initially hard to tell whether the crowd piling into the Camden Roundhouse are fans or freeloaders. The iTunes Live festival doesn't charge for entrance, making this the perfect chance for the casually-interested to catch a glimpse of two of the emerging crop of electropop girls who are currently taking the charts by storm.
Judging by the polite but muted reaction when Polly Scattergood takes the stage, the crowd here are more freeloaders than fans. Appearing initially with just a piano between her and the audience, Ms Scattergood is soon joined by a three-piece backing band, and proceeds to run us through a set of pleasant, if not mind-blowing, electro-tinged numbers.
There's nothing wrong her the songs, but there's nothing spectacularly right about them either. Only the melodies of her closing song Nitrogen Pink and her forthcoming single, Bunny Club, really grab the attention. Many of the more obvious lyrics could do with being cut out. Her on-stage persona appears to be two parts Lady GaGa, one part La Roux, with a hint of Little Boots and a splash of Lily Allen thrown in for good measure. Her voice, though excellent when whispering breathlessly, lacks the power shown by some of her contemporaries, although her slightly nervous banter between songs suggests that lack of experience may have something to do with this. The overall impression is that this Brit School graduate is traipsing out electropop by numbers. Perhaps understandably record companies are currently looking to make repeat returns by mining what seems to be a lucrative seam of music, but this performance suggests that they may not have sorted through the true gems carefully enough before deciding what to sell.
Natasha Khan, or Bat for Lashes, is a different proposition altogether. While a non-fee-paying crowd may sometimes be hard to enthuse, she carries herself on stage with the self-assured confidence of an experienced performer. It helps that she has two albums of frequently excellent material from which to source her set. Her mostly-female backing band - especially former Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley who provides her live backing vocals and dances between instruments - are also fantastic.
It also helps that her slightly mystical, Bjork-like chanting and dancing is offset by disarmingly down-to-earth inter-song banter. The crowd laps it up, and by the end of it she is whooped and cheered into performing a three-song encore. Highlights include the singles from her first album, including an impassioned performance of Priscilla and a rousing What's a Girl To Do?, as well as newer number Daniel.
The difference between Natasha Khan and Polly then, may partially come down to experience, but it also has a lot to do with songwriting nous and Natasha's eccentricities of style, both musically and visually. Despite wearing the spanglier-sparklier dress on the night, Ms Scattergood was unfortunately outshone here.