Friday, May 22, 2009

Gig review: Ladyhawke at Koko, London

Ladyhawke's debut album was my favourite pop record of last year - an encyclopaedia of 1980s melodies, Human League synth lines, cool-as-ice attitudes, even-cooler-than-ice hooks and great big jouyous handclaps. But I was interested in what her live show would be like, because the artist otherwise known as Pip Brown has Asperger's Syndrome - a mild form of autism that can cause communicative and emotional problems.

Growing up in New Zealand, she says, "I was so solitary. Other kids thought I was a weirdo". But interviewers have remakred that Brown exhibits few of the characteristic traits of Aperger's - "chatty, warm and sincere", is how the Independent put it.

In concert, she's certainly shy - head bowed, eyes obscured by her immaculately feathered fringe, and emitting a nervous giggle every time she addresses the audience. But whether this is a hallmark of her medical condition is up for debate. She's more communicative and dynamic than, say, Liam Gallagher...

Still, Ladyhawke's apologetic awkwardness means that her gig stands or falls on the quality of the music. At first, the signs aren't good. The pounding rhythms of set-opener Magic are marred by a sound mix muddier than a swamp in the Serengeti, and Brown's vocals are barely audible for the first fifteen minutes of the sshow.

Worse still, a specially-ordered mini orchestra (string quartet, brass section and baby grand piano) seem not to have been plugged into the mixing desk. All night long, they're bowing, plucking, blowing and puffing to no discernible effect.

But things slowly start to improve as the crowd pick up the pop baton and run with it, chanting along to the buoyant choruses of Better Than Sunday, Dusk Til Dawn and Paris Is Burning. The energy gets beamed back to the stage, where a Tango-fied cover of Britney's Womanizer and b-side Danny and Jenny bring the band, and Ladyhawke herself, to life.

By the encore, even the sound man has woken up. We get our only chance to hear the orchestra on a grimy rendition of Patti Smith's Horses, before the night closes with My Delirium - and a thousand fists punching the air with every exuberant "hey!" the chorus throws up.

But we wanted more - a performer who could lob all that energy back into the crowd and set off some kind of musical adrenaline riot. Ladyhawke simply couldn't do that last night - but several gig veterans told me she'd improved tenfold since her last London date. So there's hope yet that she'll grow into a showwoman worthy of her gargantuan tunes.

Fingers (in sequinned gloves) crossed.

Labels: , ,

<< Home

Newer Posts ::: Older Posts

© 2014 Discopop Directory | Contact | Go to the homepage