I'm usually not very spontaneous. But when I read a profile of 27-year-old UK singer/songwriter Natasha Khan, who fronts alternative girl band Bat for Lashes, in the paper yesterday, I made an exception. I decided I had to see her live. Lucky for me, she was playing the very same night at the Bowery Ballroom in NY's Lower East Side.
Why the sudden urgency to rearrange my plans and trek downtown to see her play? After reading about her multi-instrument playing abilities and live shows, I was intrigued enough to know what the band was about on-stage. Maybe her half-Pakistani, half-English heritage had something to do with it too – being of Indian descent, I share a close cultural similarity to her Pakistani half and somehow wanted to see if I could pick up on that in person.
I realized rather quickly that the music transcended that last sentiment. Khan, dressed in a black-and-white flowy shirt, black high heel boots worn high over her skinny light blue jeans, and a glittery headband tied around her head, hippie-style (which is perhaps turning into somewhat of her trademark accessory), commanded the stage with songs from her 2007 debut album, Fur and Gold (also nominated for a Mercury Prize, the prestigious British music award).
Khan's clear, sweet, and balanced voice seemed to have the very attentive crowd enchanted with it's fairy tale-like sound in "What's A Girl To Do" . With "Sarah" she shifted gears with powerful notes that resonated with the thundering sounds she made striking a staff-like pole on a wood block placed center stage. Between songs, Khan spoke to the full-house audience in a cool English accent and hopped around stage to swap instruments (the keyboards and autoharp among them) with bandmates, Abi Fry, Caroline Weeks, and Lizzy Carey.
The beautiful dark-haired singer, whose sound has been compared to the likes of Björk, ended the night off "Prescilla" which had the audience clapping along to her bandmates' lead. I found my new favorite band. A guy next to me, I guessed was his first time at her show too, leaned over: "Very unique to say the least – I mean, she's just so talented."
All photos by Anne Dunne