La Roux + Heartbreak + Magistrates + The Chapman Family @ Birmingham Academy 2 – 13th May 2009

NME Tour Feat. LA ROUX @ Birmingham Academy

Hype has been mounting for months around La Roux; the London duo whose infectious 80’s inspired synth-pop is hotly tipped to be the sound of 2009. With uber-catchy single ‘In for the Kill’ at an impressive number 2 in the singles chart and their highly anticipated debut album due for release at the end of the month, La Roux seem set to be bigger than lead singer Elly Jackson’s gravity defying quiff, so it was with a high level of anticipation that I made my way to see their headline slot on tonight’s NME tour.

Arriving just in time to catch opening act The Chapman Family’s final onslaught of brutal, stage-smashing paranoid punk, I was perhaps too late to make sense of the confrontational wall of white noise and wailing being hurled by the band. I did however enjoy their front man’s suicide by microphone mime and emphatic guitar destruction.

The mood lightened considerably when Magistrates took to the stage, and opening track ‘Make this Work’ saw some definite hip swaying action begin to ripple around the young audience; lead singer Usher’s Prince inspired vocals giving the bands’ of indie-pop a funky and distinctive soulful edge. Laden with some pretty impressive guitar riffs, their sound often strayed into unadulterated power pop, but it was when Magistrates played up their soul influences that they really shone. Closing track and current single Heartbreak was probably the weakest point in their set; lacking the melody, vocal performance and energy that had lifted their earlier offerings out of the run of the mill indie-pop pit.

Next on the bill Heartbreak; fronted by eccentric Freddie Mercury/vampire lookalike Sebastian, the duo’s dramatic Italo-Disco is intense, fun, and flawlessly executed. Heatbreak sound like the future imagined through the eyes of a 1980’s sci-fi fan; Sebastian’s quirky dance moves and dramatic vocal make for a riveting performance, but Heartbreak lack a few decent hooks, and when the spectacle is over their tracks are easily forgotten.

NME Tour Feat. LA ROUX @ Birmingham Academy

They kept us waiting, but when La Roux finally took to the stage hurling straight into ‘Quicksand’ at full throttle the Academy 2 went wild. Even more striking than her (unbelievably!) larger-in-life red quiff and spangly blazer was Elly’s voice, enlivening the track with an exciting raw energy and intensity that was actually quite startling. “La Roux is on fire!” chanted the crowd, but the duo’s other offerings didn’t have quite enough substance to keep them in the palm of Elly’s hand.

NME Tour Feat. LA ROUX @ Birmingham AcademyNME Tour Feat. LA ROUX @ Birmingham Academy

Glimmers of a potential beyond the duo’s rather basic set up were obvious on ‘As if by Magic’ and ‘Armour Love’, where Elly showcased the potential of her captivating vocal; it’s fragility sitting perfectly in juxtaposition with the electronic instrumental. After a total of seven brief bursts of song La Roux leave the stage, returning for an encore of ‘In for the Kill’. Easily the highlight of the night, it sends the crowd into a frenzy, their excitement only slightly waning during mediocre new single and final offering of the night ‘Bulletproof’. It’s clear that La Roux have ‘something’; however it is difficult to determine quite what that is beyond the hype and the already semi-iconic status of androgynous pin-up Elly herself. Whether La Roux will manage to make a lasting impression on an already saturated electro-pop market remains to be seen, but with the benefit of a stronger band and a bit more song writing practice, La Roux could become very exciting.

Reviewer – Roosje Watson
Photographer – Katja Ogrin

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