Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ladytron - Live at The Stiff Kitten, Belfast

If they had been around back in the early 1980s, Ladytron would have been the kind of band you would have fallen in love with on watching them perform their latest hit on Top of the Pops, sandwiched between The Human League and Adam and the Ants.

With their infectious blend of electro-pop and fuzzy post-punk, Ladytron exist in the tradition of those few bands that are best characterised by a string of glittering and perfect pop singles. It’s therefore a shame that none of their songs have so far been able to make any significant impact on the pop charts.

Looking as if they had been styled by a Teutonic Mary Quant, Mira Aroyo and Helen Marnie appeared on the Stiff Kitten stage like parallel universe versions of Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The hausfrau image sat perfectly alongside the bubbling electronics and squalling guitar. The on-stage roving spotlight that settled on one band member before gliding away to gaze on another cemented the Nuremberg-chic.

We were informed that Mira had broken her ankle that morning, and so remained seated at her keyboard, looking at times as if she was weeping. There would be no blank-faced, Abba-esque back-to-back singing then, which is how I imagined Ladytron would present themselves to a live audience.

Opening with Black Cat the set list mainly concentrated on songs from the last two albums, including Ghosts, Season of Illusions, High Rise, Soft Power, International Dateline, Seventeen and current single, Runaway. The four-members of the band were supplemented by two others, including a live drummer, who provided added punch to the sequenced percussion. At times, the vocals seemed too far back in the mix and much of the top-end sounds were lost amid the thundering bass. It was as if My Bloody Valentine had descended on the sound desk.

Fighting in Built up Areas, with Mira intoning in Bulgarian and Helen on breathy backing vocals, demanded to be immortalised in a stylish horror film, in much the same way that Bauhaus had electrified the opening scenes of Tony Scott’s The Hunger. The spotlight was replaced by a flickering strobe, which sparkled like a million flashbulbs over the attentive audience.

Due, I imagine, to the broken ankle, there was no encore. The performance ended with Ladytron’s best-known single, Destroy Everything You Touch. It’s the sort of song that should have gone to number one and stayed there for weeks; yet, in a world where Top of the Pops has been replaced by the mucky horrors of X-factor song contests, such crimes are to be expected.

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