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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Ladytron at the HMV Forum: Live Review

Ahead of the release of their fifth studio album, the standard bearers of dark electronic pop return to London as part of a short UK tour on Wednesday 8th June 2011.

Written by Richard Pearmain

Ladytron by Claire Kearns
Ladytron by Claire Kearns.

Has it really been this long? This long since I first caught the subtly seductive beats of Playgirl on Radio 1’s Evening Session? Hearing Helen Marnie’s coy yet devastating vocals for the first time? And what was the band’s name? Ah, taken from an Eno-period Roxy Music song. Cool! And how long since I first saw them live, on the South Bank (Queen Elizabeth Hall, I think)? Daniel Hunt drolly announcing that dancing was allowed. Then the one and a half gigs at the late, not necessarily lamented Astoria (the first attempt was abandoned when the mixing desk packed up half way through the set). And now here we are, with a decade-spanning greatest-hits-that-should-have-been in the shops, a new album in the offing and a date to keep in Kentish Town.

Ladytron by Robert Tirado
Ladytron by Robert Tirado.

YouTube Preview ImagePlaygirl

Two single green beams of light cut through the Forum’s darkened auditorium as a curious synthwave re-working of the old jazz standard You Go To My Head played over the PA. Then Ladytron (all dressed in black, as ever) appeared – Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo centre stage, flanked by Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu –and launched into Runaway, with those pounding drum beats bouncing round the room. Backed by pulses of blue, green and red light, we then got a blistering High Rise, which gave way to a typically immense-sounding Ghosts.

YouTube Preview ImageRunaway

There seemed to be a kind of back to basics approach tonight – recent flirtations with stringed instruments seem to have been put to one side (though from my vantage point I couldn’t make out whether Hunt did tinker with a guitar at all), and it was a return to the straightforward analogue synth sound of old, save for the presence of a drummer behind the quartet.

Ladytron by Michelle Pegrume
Ladytron by Michelle Pegrume.

Marnie’s ice queen vocals belie a commanding stage presence (in between vocal and keyboard duties, she was even seen perched on the drum riser!). Her voice really comes into its own, though, on the darkly pulsing Soft Power and the forbidding International Dateline (both from 2005’s acclaimed Witching Hour album). Aroyo also got in on the act, with her stern Bulgarian intonations giving the dark dance beats of Fighting In Built Up Areas an extra edge.

YouTube Preview ImageSeventeen

The delicate White Elephant provided a taster for the forthcoming album, Gravity The Seducer, and marks how far the band have travelled since the likes of Discotraxx (from debut album 604, and which also got an airing tonight). Near-hit Seventeen, with its perceptive pop culture mantra (“they only want you when you’re seventeen, when you’re twenty one you’re no fun”) received a rousing reception as we headed, inevitably, towards Playgirl and the traditional set closer, the massive Destroy Everything You Touch.

YouTube Preview ImageDestroy Everything You Touch

And so, the lights come up and Ladytron depart for their remaining few shows – apparently our last sighting of the foursome on these shores for the rest of the year. Still, we got what we wanted, a glimpse through a synth-pop past darkly, mixed with a teaser of what is still to come. And it really has been this long, a decade of remarkable music that still sets the standard for the latest wave of synthwave bands to aim for.

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