BAT FOR LASHES LIVE AT WEBSTER HALL

August 13, 2009

It started with a bag of bananas. I was on my way home last night with a new sprig of bananas when I got an email saying I had a ticket to Bat For Lashes. So I ate three of them, threw away the fourth and hopped a train to Union Square.

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We watched as stagehands assembled a cornucopia of props: candles, Multiple Virgin Mary’s, white Christmas lights, maracas and a blanket to cover the back of the clavichord. The lights went down and out came Bat For Lashes. She opened with the first two tracks from Two Suns, “Glass” and “Sleep Alone.” I want to use “they” to describe the band, but it really was Natasha Khan running the show. Throughout the set, she moved between a few songs dancing and a few songs behind the piano. This back and forth made sense for the kind of material she has, but it felt tedious and it meant that all the slow songs came in bunches. I don’t think anyone could see her when she was back behind the piano–I was two people from the stage and all I could see was her head, and not even all of it. She played a couple of yawners; while “Sad Eyes” was the most intimate song of the night, it also made us want to nap.

The great thing about her live show is the exceptional use of percussion. When playing her “dancing” songs (as she would probably describe them) the unique drum beats and synths really stand out. Bat For Lashes uses an uncommon drum set, forgoing standard rock snares for deeper toms and we could feel the kick drum hitting us like wind from an arriving train. Just listen to “Two Planets;” the wood block sounded clear and relevant, and it sets a rhythm that isn’t your basic 1-2-3-4. The clapping on “Trophy” is another example of a complex rhythm, people in the crowd tried clapping along and simply couldn’t.

The highlights of the show were “Pearl’s Dream,” “The Wizard,” and “Daniel,” which I think no one wanted to end. It was pretty neat to see her play “Prescilla” on the harpsichord, since I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone play one before.
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set list
Other Lives opened the evening. I didn’t really enjoy their first couple of songs, but once they got going they did some cool stuff. They featured a cello prominently in all of their arrangements and they looked kind of like Bon Iver. So I was surprised when they sounded like a standard rock band. The idea of piano rock reminds me of high-school-favorites Something Corporate, and more recent hackneyed acts like The Fray, but Other Lives sounded grittier and more complex than either of those groups. They had some good moments where things were loud and chords were minor, while the cello just floated on calmly like an anchored boat in storming water. These long and dark songs reminded me a little bit of Muse even.

Notes: There were some obnoxious dickwads wearing flipped up hats with spinners blocking at least 20 smaller and more appropriately dressed girls. Thank you Carolynn for calling at the exact moment I was trying to take pictures–that made my iPhone really upset. One of the press photographers actively ignored security’s request to stop using his flash, causing all of the photographers to get kicked out after only two songs from BFL. He was wearing a black hat and a blazer, if you see him, punch him for ruining the only chance for good photos all night. It was difficult to get good pictures because the set was backlit, and half the time Natasha sat behind her piano, and the other half she was blocked by the aforementioned hat-wearing douchebags.

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