Review : Bat for Lashes (The Octagon, Sheffield)

5 days of madness (or, a round of applause for your friend from Brighton) – pt. 3

(Editorial note: Sam has been sent to get some professional help. Thanks for your concerns – Your lovely editors, Misky & Quintana).

Day four: Bat for Lashes.


“My name is Pearl and I love you”

This is it.

No, not the Michael Jackson film, but the day I’ve been waiting for so long. It’s the Bat for Lashes gig at the Sheffield Octagon and I get ready, slightly trembling. Will it be good or not? Have I overhyped myself too much over this? After all, I’ve been gushing about ‘Two suns’ for so long, I think any speck of journalistic integrity I had in my body has been evaporised.

That previous statement is called “foretelling” in the lit world, kiddies.

I check my messages. My friend Pips tells me she’ll be a bit late. No worries, I’m late too, undecided of what to wear. I go for some grubby clothes and a bandanna. I have a white one and I could portray Daniel’s fat, non-unionised Mexican equivalent.

I pick a gaudy orange one and make my way, listening to some old school stuff .

After a few minutes of waiting, the doors open and we make our way as close as we can to the stage, with a previous stop for fuel (Southern Comfort with lime and coke, heavenly).

Opening act Yeasayer, which I’ve never heard before, are entertaining and probably require a few repeated viewings until a final judgement can be made. I enjoyed them and the little stuff I have since acquired is cracking stuff.

DSC04822No, really, check them out. They are worth your time.

A quick head turning broke any misgivings I had about peoples’ tastes: the place was packed. People with strange painted faces made me think of Ms. Khan’s dirge like, sombre cover of Kings of Leon’s “Use somebody”.

Then the lights went off. The stage was lit in purple and blue hues and in comes Bat for Lashes. Weird, she wasn’t wearing any of her strange costumes or any interesting body paint, just a very modest (and cute) dress that made her look a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

DSC04839Hey, where’s the white rabbit?

She seems to be very shy, but interacts with the people, no matter what certain reviewers say. ‘Glass’, from the album-of-the-year-fodder “Two suns” was the intro song, first with Natasha Khan by herself, then having the band segueing into a drum and bass rhythm that allegedly comes from working with Yeasayer during Khan’s time in New York.

It’s hard trying to put down in words what it is like to see this band live. The strange noises and quirky instruments, most notable a heavily pluckered autoharp and bells in a string (‘The Wizard’ – mesmerising!) that you get on the recordings rear their head live, creating an atmosphere akin to an incense laden mass in a gothic cathedral.

In a nutshell, the music was amazing.

I managed to get a few decent pictures and although there were quite a lot of songs and enough time was given to  each to completely feel the raw emotions, time seemed to fly by, never slowing down, never feeling sluggish. Heavenly.

Horse and I’ starts, with that crazy organ that always reminds me of a great Stabbing Westward song. I felt goosebumps with ‘Daniel’ and with ‘Siren song’, the latter one being the moment when “Two suns” struck a chord the first time  I heard it. I shed several tears, as the whole structure of the Octagon trembled with her voice saying “evil, evil” in that magnificent voice.

Fanboy > Critic. Apologies to my dear editors.

And then, she was gone. A TV was rolled into the stage and they came back. The encore started in a surreal way: ‘The big sleep’, a duet between Natasha and her yang-like evil twin, Pearl (via television!). ‘Prescilla’ is the last thing I remember from the gig, before wanting to pass out.

The end was near and just like that, the gig I’ve been pining for so long was over. Empty and solemn was the procession leaving the place. I thought about going over for a celebratory gin & tonic afterwards when Pips excused herself, she needed to take a call.

When I was deciding where to go and get intoxicated, Pips interrupted my train of thought:

“Hey, it was Misky, our editor”.

“Cool beans, what did she say?”

“Natasha Khan will be at Bungalows & Bears in about an hour. Do you wanna try a spot of  ‘meet and greet’?”

Did I say “interrupted”? I meant, derailed.

Pips couldn’t make it, but I did. I ran as fast as I could, but I got nixed by the bouncer. He said the place was too packed and there were several people waiting outside. I feared the worst. I spent half an hour, under the spittle that was passing as a drizzle.

Then the bouncer said to a group of 3 girls to get inside, then he looked at me and said: “go in and get yourself a drink, mate”.

Which I did. I hate waiting by myself in a pub, so what better way to pass time than having an interesting drink? I settled on a Charro negro (with extra lime) and texted the time away. Meaning that I was hanging by a pillar near the bar, texting people around and always looking at the door, checking who was getting in.

“I can do this” I said to myself. “I’ve met famous people I admire”. I had 3 questions to ask her, nothing too intrusive nor expansive. Hey, it’s the end of the tour so I don’t want to pester Ms. Khan with questions.

Different scenarios played in my head, but as time passed by, the one taking form was that this was only a rumour that Misky had heard on the grapevine. Fair enough, I had a drink, heard some cracking tunes and when this Rage against the Machine song finishes, I’ll be a goner.

And, lo and behold, I was biting a piece of lime when she entered the place. She talks with some girl who was in the pillar in front of mine. My knees go wobbly, I feel a rush of blood and heat towards my head (passing through my cheeks, making me blush) and I stumble my way as the coward I am, trying to put the glass back in the bar.

A moment of hesitation passes, I turn around and one fellow fanboy is already talking with her. I feel stupid and curse myself. Still, I coyly make my way towards the small group and ask her friend if she’s who I think she is. She could see I was making up that question as a way to break the ice and talk with Ms. Khan.

So it was my turn to speak to her. I presented myself, saying I was from Mexico and she smiled, saying that she was going to open for Coldplay in march in Mexico. I wish I had said “They should be opening for you”. Couldn’t say it.

The three questions? Couldn’t say them either. I was trembling, I felt my heart pound. I blushed and I realised I was becoming a blubbering fanboy and if I didn’t say anything, security would be all over me, working my face over and dropping my carcass in Rockingham Street, as a cautionary tale for all freshers to see.

Instead, I just tell her that the Mexican public might not react well to all her songs (?) and that she shouldn’t feel discouraged and just do a great show like she just did. I wished her the best of luck and produced out of my wallet a stamp of the Virgin of Guadalupe (??). She said it was very nice and I said it was for “luck in your future visit to Mexico” (???).

She said “thanks” and I realise that maybe I’m not the only nervous person here. Although she has the musical credibility and certainly the flair of a band’s frontwoman (frontperson?), she’s a very humble person. Retreat is in order.

Yes, I was a big Ramen soup of teenage awkwardness peppered with fanboyish-ness, so I asked for a quickie picture, which she obliged. We shook hands, again I said she was excellent and I moved away promptly, letting her enjoy the rest of her night.

I queued at the bar for what felt like ages and ordered a cider. I thought about the three questions. “Which song do you think sums up Two Suns?”. “Which of the live songs do you struggle the most, emotionally speaking?”. “Are you…”

Again, my train of thought derailed by something I saw at the other side of the bar. I quaffed the cider in one go and left Bungalows and Bears as fast as I could. The drink started to wreck havoc and I stopped for a sausage roll at Greggs. I was thirsty then. I went for a massive gin and tonic at The Harley. And then everything was a blur.

I remember stumbling up the Evil Alley by Marlborough Road, barely managing to crawl up the stairs and then turning up my computer and write this stuff, keep the memories fresh and as undistorted as I could.

What I do remember before drifting off into the arms of sleep is turning the laptop off and hearing a song blasting from another room. Good times for a change. See, the luck I’ve had can make a good man turn bad…


Day 5:Best tracks live: Horse and I, What’s a girl to do? (“this one is for the ladies”), The Wizard, Siren song, Glass, Daniel, Sleep alone.

If this concert were a David Bowie song it would be: I’ve been waiting for Pearl

If this excuse of a review were a David Bowie song it would be: The man who run from the world.


Editor’s note: After receiving this, our lovely writer was supposed to cover Oxjam, another music event, but due to unfortunate circumstances, he never handed in this. We apologise in advance. Here’s some links for your enjoyment:

2 thoughts on “Review : Bat for Lashes (The Octagon, Sheffield)

  1. Hi Samuel, great review – really enjoyed reading it. I especially like the contrast between meeting the amazing Bat for Lashes and then finishing off the night with a sausage roll at Greggs. Fantastic!

    1. Cheers, Mark, it feels as a very strange bookend to the whole thing, but, hey, I guess it fits the general “strangeness” of that night!.

      Ta for reading!

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