Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
The Day of the Dead might have passed along with Hallowe’en, but that hasn’t paled Natasha Khan’s penchant for gothic drama in terms of this stripped down mini tour to showcase this year’s independently released Lost Girls record. A concept album of sorts forged in the heat of Khan’s Death Valley wanderings and involving vampire girl gangs, Lost Girls began as a film script idea.
Dressed majestically in a vivid scarlet frock on a stage of old school synthesisers and a music stand illuminated by a circle of vintage lamps, she certainly looks the part. With only a keyboardist for company in a cabaret table set-up, this is Khan as chanteuse, freed from the machine-age trappings of a full band set-up and left vulnerable and exposed in the solitary spotlight of such an intimate and safety-net free arrangement.
Preceded by a mood-setting play-list of 1980s synth soundtracks full of foreboding, Khan opens with a salvo of the new album’s opening five songs, punctuating each with little back-stories as she moves between the keyboard and centre-stage. “I wanted to strip things back and be scared,” she says, explaining her motivation for such a set-up. Later she’ll say how shy she’s feeling, but for all the nerves during the hour she’s onstage, her lucid balladeering reveals hidden depths to her already mystery-laden vignettes.
Shorn of their beats and disco fizz, Desert Man and Jasmine sound like Terry Riley riffs given a pop reboot. A cover of Don Henley’s drive-time classic, Boys of Summer, shows off Khan’s 80s roots in a different way, and talk of her university researches into alien abduction leads into Close Encounters before closing the set with sublime crowd-pleasers, Daniel and Laura.
If Boys of Summer is audacious, the encore of Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work is brave, but Khan nails it beautifully. A frog in the throat almost derails the final moments of a similarly lovely version of Cyndi Lauper’s I Drove All Night. Khan laughs it off, radiating light from the darkness once more.
The Herald, November 25th 2019