The past twelve months have been incredible for multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter
Natasha Khan. The songstress, more commonly known under her stage moniker Bat for
Lashes, released her third studio album, The Haunted Man, gaining approval from the likes of Pitchfork, NME and Spin. To top it all off, her first single, Laura, climbed to number 30 on triple j’s Hottest 100. Among the patrons at her Laneway sideshow was one Harley Streten, aka Flume. I am 99% positive (unless he was a perfect lookalike).
Local support act Kirin J. Callinan kicked off the night to a tentative crowd. His was a very interesting set. At first, the penetrating drums, huge guitar riffs and otherworldly lyrics just seemed…menacing. Taking off his shirt mid-set, the frontman was like a cowboy with a vendetta, clawing at his guitar with an incredible ferocity. With a hint of The Smiths, one of the most memorable, and by far the most accessible, songs was Victoria. His vocals, wow. Menacing or not, Kirin had an extremely expansive range: his deep, husky growls and incredible falsetto did not go unnoticed.
There was just so much sound pouring from the stage that at times I felt like I was in a trance, being pummelled in the face by a soundscape of guitar, bass, and drums, over and over. It was hypnotic. Perhaps his music didn’t win the crowd over, but he made up for it with some great on-stage banter – not the polished, well-honed display of showmanship sported by the likes of Chris Martin, but the more endearing, humble banter featuring classic phrases such as, “this guitar doesn’t understand tune so much” and “after my set I’m gonna come out and rub shoulders… No objections?” All in all, he certainly has a distinctive style, but I probably can’t honestly say I enjoyed his set.
By the time Bat for Lashes came on, the room had filled up completely. Natasha Khan glided on stage dressed in an accordion pleated outfit, complete with a cape. Opening with Lilies from her latest record, the song shifted from quiet, affecting riffs to a permeating synth, setting the tone for the rest of the night, shifting between the minimal and the encompassing.
Fur and Gold was next, accompanied by what I can only describe as wench-like movements, which persisted throughout most of the show. Then came What’s a Girl to Do? followed by Glass and Travelling Woman. I was very glad that no one tried to sing along to the former’s operatic trills. Her gyrating continued on stage, with the occasional battering of percussion; all her movements fluid yet theatrical, almost like a pagan dance.
Up until this stage, the crowd had remained quietly respectful – this changed when Oh Yeah and All Your Gold dropped. With their dancy vibes, the crowd was finally getting loose, or at the very least, they swayed further left and right than before.
The stage was scant – nothing but instruments and a few hanging lamps surrounding the
band. But you never noticed because it seemed like Natasha’s presence filled up the entire
thing, this being especially evident when she stood dead centre to perform the song we had
all been waiting for. Without any of the previous dancing and prowling, Laura was delivered with an incredible honesty. The songstress brought the hit to impassioned heights, showcasing everything that made her an amazing vocalist and performer. It wasn’t until the stripped-back ballad was over that I realised how quiet everyone had been the entire time. Awed by the outpour of emotion, there was a momentary lapse before the crowd remembered to applaud. They clapped and cheered like Bat for Lashes had just finished her encore, until the band cut them off shyly (and politely) with the first notes of Lumen.
After a couple more tracks from her previous albums, the set was rounded off with Pearl’s Dream – a strong closer. For the encore came The Haunted Man, with an eerie chorus transmitted by the band through an antique radio. Daniel, one of her biggest hits to date, came last, providing a fitting end to a remarkable set.