Some might argue that Bat For Lashes’ new album, The Haunted Man, is perhaps better known so far for its black and white artwork than anything else. On it, Natasha Khan is naked and poised with the unambiguous, seductive gaze of Titian’s Diana surrounded by her prey. Carrying a strategically-placed man over her shoulders, she gazes to camera, playfully blurring the haunted with the hunted.
Yet at a packed Forum on Tuesday night Khan was in relaxed mode, emerging with the track Lilies, its tentative guitar chords alternating with flourishes of a synth-injected fanfare. She joyously delivered the line ‘Thank God I’m alive’, which drew us straight into her dark and passionate world.
Energetic in her backless, black and white striped gown, and framed by the Forum’s faded 1930s grandeur, she took every opportunity to move about the stage, dancing with a Kate Bush-like mystic abandon. Meanwhile the band did their thing with precision, yet never swamped the impressive vocals as Khan’s theatrics took focus.
Beating a rhythm out with anything she could get her hands on, including a vintage wireless held aloft during the first encore, by All Your Gold the reverent and somewhat dumbfounded audience had finally loosened up. After dedicating the next song Marilyn to her family ‘in the house’, Khan’s delivery of set highlight Holding You I’m Touching a Star well and truly sent shivers down this hack’s spine.
Spotlit and accompanied only by Ben Christopher’s on piano, the Forum fell silent as the goosebump-inducing Laura showcased the harrowing beauty of Khan’s voice. Rich harmonies followed on Two Suns, Siren Song before the tempo quickened again with Pearls Dream.
Unsurprisingly, there was much call for an encore and Bat for Lashes obliged with The Haunted Man, animated by Khan’s percussion of the aforementioned radio. The Ivor Novello-winning Daniel closed the show and assured that any audience members still in respectful reverence left rapturous.
Oh, and we have to add that Chicken Shop has now become the pre-Forum fast food option of choice in Kentish Town – the place was rammed on Tuesday night with poultry-gobbling Bat For Lashes fanciers.
Words & iPhone snaps: Clare Zerny