Any lingering doubts that chivalry is, in fact, dead were obliterated at the Academy on Thursday night. Though a majority female audience had filed in to see the red half of synth-pop duo La Roux perform in Dublin for the second time in 2009, the front row was, to a man, entirely male – in many cases stood square in front of shorter women. Granted, it probably had little effect on anybody’s enjoyment of the concert, but you do tend to notice these things from the venue’s curved balcony, and it does cause one to worry about the plight of shorter people at gigs.
Not lacking for height herself, Elly Jackson is the public face of La Roux (and daughter of The Bill’s Sergeant June Ackland). The other half of the duo, Ben Goldstein, doesn’t perform with the band, so she was joined on stage by her regular three-piece band, comprising two synth players and a drummer (drum-padder?). The atmosphere in the sold-out venue was fantastic, and the nervous excitement turned to ecstasy as Jackson’s trademark erect quiff shuffled on stage, followed in close proximity by its owner.
Yet soon it became apparent that something was wrong. Jackson isn’t the rangiest vocalist to begin with, but her usual high-pitched howl sounded more like a whimper as she stumbled through the first couple of songs. Sequencing was questionable: -Tigerlily’ is one of the highlights of La Roux’s debut self-titled album, but as an opener it lacks the arresting quality of her better known tracks. It was followed by the album’s lead single, -Quicksand,’ but by then the level of chatter in the audience had begun to drown out the sounds coming from the stage. It’s well-known that, at certain scene gigs in Dublin, it’s more important to be seen than it is to see the gig, but even so the level of disinterest was surprising – although, somewhat understandable, given the poor quality of performance.
It is to Ms. Jackson and her band’s credit that she managed to turn the gig completely around. For the first few songs, she barely interacted with the crowd at all, standing off and muttering little more than a ‘thanks’ between songs. Eventually, she was forced to reveal the reason behind her poor performance: she had been sick. The atmosphere lightened almost immediately and, as if a burden had been lifted from her shoulders, Jackson suddenly sprung into life. Her vocals improved considerably (although she still, understandably, sounded as if she was holding back) and she began to dance and engage with the audience a little more. The crowd’s reaction was immediately positive. -Cover My Eyes’ and -In For The Kill’ sounded more like the transcendent anthems they were built to be, while -Fascination’ and closer -Bulletproof’ were particular highlights – Jackson was even able to turn the mic over to the front rows for the chorus of her signature song.
As La Roux have only one album, the setlist was predictable, and the same problems that affect the album recurred in concert: the slow songs don’t quite match up to the club bangers, and some of the faster songs sound altogether too similar. But, overall, the live performance almost sounded sweeter for its awful beginning – Jackson clearly recognised that something was up within the first few songs, and pulled out a superstar performance to win back the crowd. When the 40-minute set came to an end, she practically ran off stage – she looked as if she was about to vomit, and it was visibly painful for her to finish, but the crowd was all the more appreciative as a result.
North London trio (brilliant name, shit outfits and monstrously bad -taches) opened the show with a bang – their single -Dance The Way I Feel’ may be the best thing you’ll dance to this year – and they will be an act to look out for in 2010. It’s worth noting that fans spent just €17.50 securing tickets to the gig – this was perhaps helped by the Academy’s determination to finish by 10pm in order to turn over the main area to a club night, but for a show that was always destined to sell out, it’s admirable that both band and venue kept the face-price to a very reasonable minimum. Judging by the shenanigans at Sunday’s Yusuf Islam gig, you can get far less value for a lot more money.
Photos: Fionn Kidney