Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Serve The Servelans!

Ladytron/Battant, Carling Academy 2, Birmingham, Monday October 10 2005.

Support act Battant are new to these ears, but they have just released their debut single and don't seem short of confidence as they get into their stride quickly with some uptempo and decidely dancefloor-friendly material. The lead singer (whose looks are very much in the Sheena Easton/Anna Friel mode) has a powerful voice (bordering on harsh, at times) which sits unusually with the mostly trip-hop instrumentation of her two band-mates (who are much older and appear to need to wash their hair more often) so Dead Kenny would like to listen to them more on record before making a final decision on their likely longevity. Standout track on this first exposure, however, would be 'The Countess' which clipped along at a fair old beat, and might yet earn them a few royalty cheques.

Quite a long wait in between bands, during which your correspondent spends most of the time enthralled by the 'tron roadies busying away like boffins (you'd be surprised how much time it takes to plug in a few retro keyboards!). However, a brief and cursory crowdwatch reveals a roughly 50:50 split between those that have spent hours getting ready with the dressing-up box and scruffy young men with hopeful expressions on their faces. Will leave you to decide which camp(!) Dead Kenny belongs in, but these suspenders are leaving a welt in his left thigh and the dry ice is playing awful havoc with the kohl.

Such concerns are cast to one side, however, with the entrance of Ladytron who start the set with 'High-Rise', which is the sound of a flotilla of Thunderbird 2s raining napalm pods down on the sources of all evil. This is the opening track on third studio album Witching Hour which is the best record to soundtrack your autumn/winter season or else Dead Kenny will chow down on Maggie Thatcher's snatch. It's two-and-a-half years since Parallax View asked the question Is this Britain's Best Pop Band Ever? and 'Witching Hour' represents the group's irrevocable and near-dismissive answer: containing sleek, mesmerising songs pulsing with verve and majestry, it's a number one record in all universes except the known ones.

The brown boiler-suit uniforms from their last visit to Birmingham are ditched for more bespoke tailoring this time around - former model Helen Marnie looking sensational in a shimmering, tightly-fitted black dress (cut just below the knee, fashion fact fans) and black mid-calf boots while Mira Aroyo has chosen to soften her ice-queen look with pre-Raphaelite curls and a tunic-style outfit (cut just above the knee and discreetly slashed to mid-thigh) giving her the appearance of a space pixie, or at the very least a particularly game crew member of Blake's 7. Danny and Reuben are too far at the back to see what they're wearing in any detail, but let's be honest, you're not interested in their apparel, and with songs as immense as 'Destroy Everything You Touch' and 'Sugar' to concentrate on, that judgement is sound.

The set is heavily laced with songs from their new album (Witching Hour, in stores now, if you're struggling to keep up) although sadly 'White Light Generator' and Beauty*2 miss out on an airing. The singles from 'Light & Magic' keep up the all-killer feel, while 'Playgirl' and a fetching version of 'He Took Her To A Movie' represent debut platter '604'. The girls are in unusually outstanding voice in a live setting, Helen Marnie in particular really making an effort to engage with the audience (again not something you usually associate with Ladytron) while Mira Aroyo's spellbinding turn on 'Fighting In Built-Up Areas' helps raise the profile of one of the less 'obvious' songs on the record. Reuben puts a lot of energy into his Korg keyboardwork while Danny seems happy to assume 'the Bill Wyman position' (pre-Mandy Smith days, natch) in the background, basking in the reflected glory of what is building up to be an outstanding set of songs.

For encore, we get 'The Last One Standing', slightly slower of tempo but with an undeniably catchy chorus and plenty of soaring 'aaah-AAAHs' for Helen to tease her tonsils around. This is followed, inevitably, by 'Seventeen', a song of such simple but unutterable genius (and Dead Kenny never uses the word genius lightly) that Lennon and McCartney would have drunk each other's piss to have written it. Helen and Mira join each other at the middle of the stage for some slinky, synchronised moves as they deliver the devastating lines of a tune that acts like a serotonin virus that just keeps on giving.

You can hoist Dead Kenny on the petard of his own hyperbole if you wish to worship instead at the altars of Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Babyshambles et al. But despite their lack of commercial recognition it is more important than ever to keep believing in Ladytron. To give up on them now would be to relinquish all hope of a perfect future of flying cars, unlimited space travel and guiltless pleasure, not to mention a Gerry Anderson afterlife.



Anonymous graybo said...

so it was a good gig then?

2:58 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Well spotted, sir!

4:41 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Via the 'tron messageboard there's a great set of very professional standard photos from Monday night's gig to be found here.

Includes some great close-ups of Helen and Mira, particularly love the ones of Mira looking pensively at her keyboard.

Nice work! Apparently some of these may show up in Artrocker magazine in the near future.

5:22 PM  

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