The fourth Bat For Lashes album isn’t actually out until next week, but ‘The Bride’ casts a long, spectral shadow across Natasha Khan’s Sunday-afternoon performance on the John Peel Tent. Khan arrives onstage in a billowing, ankle-length gown, with a bridal veil covering her face and clasping a bouquet of flowers, which she’ll later throw into the crowd before set-closer ‘Daniel’, declaring that it represents “solidarity, unity and building bridges, not walls. If you catch this, you’ll love yourself forever.”
The story of ‘The Bride’ herself isn’t quite so optimistic: as Khan explains, her new LP is about a woman who discovers that her fiancee has been killed in a car crash on the way to their wedding. Her recent live shows in support of the record have emphasised its high-concept and character roleplay, but given the walk-in nature of any festival crowd, her decision not to play the whole thing in sequence makes a certain sort of sense: following the spectral ‘Joe’s Dream’ and the gothic, propulsive art-pop of ‘In God’s House’, Khan cheerfully thanks the audience for listening to the new songs and announces that she’s “going to play some oldies for you now.”
Those ‘oldies’ – such as ‘Glass’, ‘Marilyn’ and the strikingly-dramatic ‘Laura’ – are warmly welcomed by the crowd, but you can’t help feeling that an artist like Khan is ill-served by simply playing the hits. Her albums – and the performances that accompany them – are so carefully and thoughtfully constructed that it seems a shame to cherry-pick only the songs that people know: frankly, we spent most of this set wondering what became of the Bride rather than itching to hear ‘Pearl’s Dream’. Still, why bother splitting hairs. On this damp and dreary Sunday afternoon, Bat For Lashes is a gleaming oasis of poise and elegance.