That someone as deeply, compellingly odd as Elly Jackson should become a proper mainstream pop star – the third biggest-selling single of the year (‘In For The Kill’), a number one album almost certain to follow – is a beautiful thing, one of those heartswelling revenge-of-the-outsider stories. Consequently, her pre-sunset Saturday slot should have been a triumph.
After all, as someone whose Damascene creative transformation – from downcast acoustic troubadour to high-haired electro-ice maiden – apparently hinged on an Ecstasy epiphany, what could be a more fitting backdrop than Glastonbury, with its universally spangled throng?
In the event, though – apart from the last-minute burst of euphoria that greeted ‘In For The Kill’ and ‘Bulletproof’ – it was a drab performance. Which is a puzzle. How could an album as thrillingly, sleekly perfect as La Roux’s debut fail to translate into live magic?
It’s simple: La Roux can’t really sing. On record, her brittle, incisive voice slices through the mix; live, it’s just thin and bloodless.
At times this lack of vocal control generates unintentional comedy. There’s something weirdly mumsy and tentative about her delivery –an unkind critic might say that the early part of her set sounded like Squirrel Nutkin hiccupping the hits of Annie Lennox. Meanwhile, Jackson’s dancing is wedding-reception awkward throughout.
Certainly, in terms of charisma and polish, La Roux pales in comparison with Little Boots, whose set yesterday on the John Peel Stage was a masterclass in glamour and poise (her band is much better than La Roux’s, too).
But here’s the thing. La Roux’s personal awkwardness only makes her more endearing. She doesn’t look like a star. She’s not confident, or slick, or even especially likeable. She’s shy, and sometimes chippy. But all of these flaws are exploded by the clipped brilliance of her songs.
In that sense, La Roux has less in common with her current synth-pop contemporaries than has been suggested – she belongs to an older tradition of enthralling pop oddballs.
Plus, she’s the only person onsite whose quiff is taller than Henry Holland’s. Respect.