Bat For Lashes @ Sydney Opera House (3/6/11)

Bat For Lashes has a flair for transporting listeners into an alternate world that is at once haunting, ethereal and beautiful. Taking her place on the Concert Hall stage at the Sydney Opera House, the alluring songstress gave a performance that had the audience enchanted from start to finish. A singer songwriter who is continually linked to highly esteemed artists including Cat Power, Bjork and Kate Bush, this British artist certainly holds her own when it comes to creating music that is otherworldly yet, at the same time, stands in the realm of catchy pop.

Taking to the stage in a blood red quilt-like outfit, it instantly became clear that Bat For Lashes’ appeal extends to her visual performance. As the exotic beauty held a strong stage presence, the spectacle of her show was complemented by black and white video footage of ballet dancers, Old Hollywood romances and tumultuous seas. With the singer being framed by twisted trees on either side of the stage, this only enhanced the idea that Bat for Lashes’ music is about capturing a strange and somewhat magical atmosphere.

Instead of sticking to her most recent material, Khan provided a steady mix of tunes from her debut album, Fur and Gold, and her latest album, Two Suns, while also treating us to a few new pieces. Two Suns exhibits an impressive progression as it displays greater instrumental complexity and dramatic flair, yet Bat For Lashes’ earlier work was still received with great excitement by the crowd. While the songs The Wizard and The Bat’s Mouth could seem overly simplistic, they still succeed in highlighting Khan’s impressive vocal abilities which manage to sound delicate, forlorn and powerful simultaneously. While Trophy was one the more exciting and driving pieces bringing together a mixture of clapping, heavy beats and a vibrant chanting chorus.

While all eyes were glued to Khan as she swept around the stage to play piano or autoharp, her accompanying musicians did a great deal to enhance her sound. One of her most standout and commanding songs of the night was Glass, with this number making the most of the four piece strings section, synths and tribal drumming. Much of Bat For Lashes’ charm lies in her contradictory mash up of earnest, almost medieval sounding vocals and lyrics with electronic beats and melodies. The song Sleep Alone does this with great success, while Daniel goes even further to become a dance-pop track, with the whole audience standing up to dance along to this number.

The faster, more energetic songs were certainly necessary in bringing a greater range to Khan’s repertoire, yet her softer pieces still held the audience. Bat For Lashes delivered her song Wilderness with a beautiful heartfelt sincerity, while Siren Song showcased her talent for building up her songs from sad and slow into something passionate and driven.

Returning only with her strings section for encore, Bat For Lashes ended the night with a playful and highly enjoyable handful of covers. In honour of fellow musicians visiting for Vivid Live, the songstress and her strings section played a lively version of The Cure’s Lullaby. The choice to cover Radiohead’s You’re All I Need was also well made, as it allowed Khan to show off her ability to live up to Thom Yorke’s vocal range.

Vivid Live is all about showcasing talents who experiment with new ideas, sounds and spectacles, and that is exactly what Bat For Lashes brought to the Sydney Opera House. Creating ethereal and imaginative music, Bat For Lashes had a great deal to offer throughout what was a truly strong set.