Imagine that it’s the late afternoon on the final day of the 2009 edition of the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. Reports of Michael Jacksons death and Lady Gagas alleged on-stage flashing of ambiguous genitalia are now old news, while tasteless jokes at the expense of the King of Pop and glowing reviews for headliners Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen are seemingly at the tips of everyones tongues. While this Glasto has been a relatively dry one, an extended shower early Friday proved sufficient enough to make the main pathways and ground at all the stages muddy for the entire weekend. Following a recent and brief spot of rain, the air is muggy to the point of discomfort, and the crowd is catching their breath following an explosive Yeah Yeah Yeahs set.
To say that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a tough act to follow is an understatement, especially since their Glastonbury performance concluded with Karen O and Nick Zinner smashing their microphone and guitar together. When nobody can match or exceed this raucous energy, perhaps the only way to follow such an act is with something that is completely dissimilar, yet just as impressive, albeit in different ways. Enter Bat for Lashes, the stage name of songstress Natasha Khan, that had the unenviable task of not just healing a massive and certainly exhausted crowd but also following one of the best live acts in music today.
High expectations for Bat for Lashes return to Glastonbury were inevitable, thanks to a wave of positive buzz following her supporting slot on Radioheads 2008 tour and the sophomore slump-defeating Two Suns. At first sight, Khan clearly has a flair for the dramatic, and at Glastonbury, she made no secret of this. Shrouded in a feathered cloak, Khan swept across the stage to perform with her band, all in front of a backdrop that bore a lone wolf howling at the moon, coincidentally very reminiscent of the t-shirt meme. (Perhaps the keyboard cat variant can be worked into the next tour?) From the start, Bat for Lashes bewitches everyone, opening with the Song of Solomon-quoting Glass. Thanks to the use of instruments such as an autoharp and harpsichord, Glass sounds like something that would be heard in one of the celestial emerald cities referenced in the lyrics.
Of course, Natasha Khan could be singing about the varieties of cider available at the nearby bars, rather than invoking fantasy imagery, and still sound completely otherworldly thanks to her voice. It’s a striking one, capable of stopping people dead in their tracks, enthralling them as it goes from powerfully soaring to spellbindingly ethereal. She retains her visual splendor, too. Mid-performance, Khan sheds her cape, highlighting one sparkly, sequined leotard and some radiant blue tights, which essentially gives her the freedom to dance around to the uncanny sound of a Marxophone and the beat of her drummer, in this case New Young Pony Clubs Sarah Jones. Everything’s bizarre, yet so oddly fitting. After all, Glastonbury sets itself up in an area popular for having a history involving mystical energy, and when combined with the enchanting music of Bat for Lashes, the result turned out to be purely magical. Extraordinary, as well. In hindsight, Bat for Lashes proved to be more of a superhero moniker than a stage name.