all photos: Katherine Gaines
After canceling her DC scheduled appearance multiple times, La Roux finally managed to show up to underwhelm us all with a lukewarm and tedious hour-long performance.
With the exception of a few moments of decent enthusiasm during “In for the Kill” and “Bullet Proof,” La Roux’s potentially charismatic stage presence was non-existent. I expected a woman with the androgynous beauty and style of an iconic female dandy to deliver an unforgettable live show, but all I clearly recall about the evening was Elly Jackson’s flaming-red pompadour. She looked hot, but there were some serious issues with her actual performance. First of all, she seemed nervous, and her voice sounded whispery and weak. Her self-conscious body-language came across as awkward, and the synths all but drowned out her frail vocals. Overall, the show was underwhelming, and even the crowd of gays and girls seemed unnaturally mellow.
Jackson walked on stage around eleven-thirty and apologized sweetly for her many canceled DC shows. The opener “Tigerlily” was markedly unimpressive, and you could barely hear her strained singing. The next few songs, including her hits “As if by Magic,” “Quicksand,” and “I’m Not Your Toy,” were also merely mediocre. I have to say, I was really displeased with La Roux’s feeble and uncomfortable cover of the Rolling Stone’s “Under My Thumb.” I think there are some songs that just don’t work outside of rock. I might sound a bit harsh, but if you’re going to perform a Mick Jagger and Keith Richards song, you just have to own it, and nail it.
Even given the generally uninspired nature of the night, there were a few highlights. The last several songs — “Colourless Colour,” which was actually really awesome (Jackson was totally audible on this one), “In for the Kill,” and “Bulletproof” — were interesting and even passionate.
In all fairness, Elly Jackson is just twenty-two and starting out. She does have some amazing things going for her. She and producer Ben Langmaid turned out one of the hottest pop albums of 2009, and it’s far from just a hip 80s throw-back. La Roux’s self-titled début album features Jackson’s haunting vocals, artfully layered with unpretentious 80s synth-pop. While this combination could be potentially unremarkable, La Roux’s minimalist production quality and beautifully simple lyrics are actually what makes the music relatable and refreshing.
This simplistic approach has also set the stage for some killer remixes including Major Lazer and La Roux’s Lazerproof Mixtape.
La Roux’s heartbreaking lyrics and voice sound even more delightfully spooky in Nacey and Matthew Hemerlein’s unearthly remix of “Bulletproof.” It’s not what you’d expect from a remix of a Major Lazer/La Roux track, and it’s definitely worth a listen.
I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy “Bulletproof.” I love this uncomplicated pop-song, and I’m glad that it was La Roux’s most energetic song of the night. The audience unsurprisingly and rightfully adored this finale song. After all, can’t everyone relate to a woman in her early twenties singing sweetly about disappointing romances, rejection, and about boys just generally being mean?
I think La Roux has untapped potential. There are even rumors that Jackson is trying to distance herself from her characteristic 80s sound and look. Jackson’s voice is lovely, she’s talented, and I personally think she and Langmaid will produce more remarkable and unexpected music. Hopefully with age and more experience, La Roux’s live performances will eventually live up to the awesomeness of their recorded work.