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Over the weekend: Bat for Lashes at the Bluebird Theater

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Bat For Lashes, Other Lives
Bluebird Theater
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Better Than:
See bands with technical ability but no imagination.

Openers Other Lives started out with a lush, orchestral, folk-inflected pop song that reminded me a bit of Arab Strap, without the bile and the Scottish accents. It would have been easy to write Other Lives off as yet another adherent to the Radiohead school of atmospheric music but something about the band's songs went beyond something so obvious. The lyrics in the second song were an introspective dialogue between the singer and the memory of a person or a situation and made for an interesting section of the set. In general, this group's words were a cross between confessional and narrative and were, at times, reminiscent of the middle era Leonard Cohen in tone and dynamics. For one song, I heard a guitar sound like early Pink Floyd. What made this act for me was that it was masterful at mixing together melodies and dynamics to construct atmospherics in a truly unconventional manner. Surprisingly good overall, Other Lives also engaged the audience in some light-hearted conversation and immediately had us on its side.

Bat For Lashes wasted no time with preliminaries beyond a friendly wave of "Hello" from Natasha Khan before starting an introductory piece that lead directly into "Glass." Behind the band was a large image of a full moon with a wolf's head cocked up in a howl aimed upward and to the left. Khan sported feathers on each side of her face to give her appearance a Native American flavor. During "Sleep Alone," Khan prowled the stage with a maraca in hand as though she were a medicine woman--an unmistakable gesture of Khan's fascination with Native American folklore and mythology. Charlotte Hatherley's spidery, ethereal and foreboding guitar work in that song was also remarkably effective in creating a sense of the beyond.

For "Horse and I," Sarah Jones created a martial rhythm that drove the song forward as much as Khan's harpsichord progression suggested movement and momentum. Throughout the set, Hatherley and Ben Christophers switched up their respective instrumentation with Hatherley going between guitar, bass, keys and Christophers between keys and unconventional percussion. Khan also alternated between fronting the band and playing piano and keys. Such variation in musical duties can often slow a band down but Bat For Lashes clearly have no problems with changing roles.

After a theatrical, heady performance of "Pearl's Dream" with its tribal drumming and pulsing lights, the band left the stage and came back for an encore starting with "Prescilla" during which only Christophers and Khan were on stage and Khan played the lonely and intense melody with an autoharp. The entire show closed with an especially great version of "Daniel," sounding for all the world like "A Forest" by The Cure.

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK
Personal Bias: Natasha Khan speaks my metaphysical language.
Random Detail: Met two women named Krista and Stacy who'd seen The Pretenders right before coming to this show.
By the Way: The Other Lives' 180-gram vinyl comes with a CD.

SETLIST
Bat for Lashes
08/22/09 - Denver, CO

1. Intro
2. Glass
3. Sleep Alone
4. Horse and I
5. Travelling Woman
6. Siren Song
7. Wizard
8. Trophy
9. Sad Eyes*
10. Tahiti
11. What's a Girl To Do?
12. Pearl's Dream

Encore
13. Prescilla
14. Good Love
15. Moon and Moon
16. Two Planets
17. Daniel

*I think this was cut from the set

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