Bat for Lashes @ Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, 23 Nov
Natasha Khan strips back the sound of latest album Lost Girls for an intimate and occasionally spooky show in Edinburgh
The '80s have always been an important influence to Natasha Khan. But now, they are less of a cultural touchstone to occasionally bring into her work as Bat for Lashes, and more the defining aspect – which is no bad thing.
It begins with the eerie synths that comprise the 'Natasha Khan Playlist', which acts as a sort of ambient support act. It continues with Khan's Lydia Deetz-esque red dress, and it's cemented with the music itself. The set is stripped back to just a guitar, keys, synths and an omnichord, creating an intimacy with the cabaret-style table layout and gently rolling dry ice.
Khan offers little stories about her new songs and reads out excerpts from the novella she wrote to go along with The Bride. The current '80s fascination is explained by a visit to the bridge in Santa Cruz where an iconic scene in The Lost Boys was filmed (and got the ball rolling on her latest album, Lost Girls), as well as an obvious nostalgia with the culture of her childhood.
Small lanterns are hung around the stage and begin to spookily illuminate during certain songs, such as The Hunger and alien-themed Close Encounters, furthering the '80s graveyard theme of the night. But it's Khan's vocals that really shine; whether yearning and vulnerable or confident and triumphal, they're a constant delight that can thrill or raise goosebumps, depending on the moment.
Some songs lose their epic bombast in the stripped-back setting, like Feel For You and Land's End, but with the focus firmly on vocals and storytelling the audience are really able to get a sense of what Khan was thinking when building these songs. A rendition of Boys of Summer gives an instance of her ability to put a new spin on an endlessly covered classic.
Daniel and Laura close the main set, the latter showcasing Khan's unique skill when it comes to conveying emotion and feeling with just her voice (and gesticulations). Moon and Moon opens the encore with some wonky keys, before a pair of covers end the night. This Woman's Work is played with obvious reverence, Khan explaining beforehand her love for Kate Bush, proving the oft-made comparison between the two. The third and final '80s cover is Cyndi Lauper's I Drove All Night, by turns both austere and bouncy in Khan's lithe vocals. It's a relatively short performance in all, but one full of magic and personality.