A bride stands alone at the altar, but she hasn’t been jilted – her groom has been killed on the way to the church. The bride bolts in their honeymoon car and embarks on an odyssey of grief, anger and supernatural sex. Then comes acceptance: “I will love again”.
That’s the (very simplified) outline of Bat for Lashes’ dazzling new concept album ‘The Bride’, of which she played nine of the 13 tracks last night (May 16) at north London’s Union Chapel ahead of its July 1 release. The filmic narrative isn’t unexpected – past songs nod to classic films such as The Karate Kid, E.T. and Ryan’s Daughter (and she recently wrote and directed a short film called ‘I Do’ for an anthology film called Madly). But ‘The Bride’ is a new proposition from Bat For Lashes: a concept album sung in character that demands to be presented in order. Here are the five standout moments.
1. Khan’s arrival in character as the bride, forlornly singing ‘I Do’
After the stripped-back aesthetic of third album ‘The Haunted Man’, Khan’s intensely visual imagination is ruling once more on ‘The Bride’. At the start of the show, she walks down the aisle carrying a bouquet – later cast into the congregation. She opens with ‘I Do’, a ballad in which her titular Bride looks forward to her big day. Here Khan’s soprano flutters over Omnichord strums, later backed by well-judged surges of bass that shudder in the church’s acoustics.
2. The Bride’s descent into grief and anger
As the story of the album progresses, Khan brings the part of the abandoned bride to life – she tears off her veil, shakes her hair out, clutches at nothing with her hands. Still, she maintains a warm level of banter between songs. After the ethereal ‘In God’s House’ – the moment the bride realises her husband’s grim fate – she explains, “The bride flees the church and she takes to the honeymoon car, alone. She’s pissed off, quite frankly”.
3. ‘Close Encounters’, her track about an extraterrestrial love affair
Up-tempo grief anthem ‘Sunday Love’ gets a huge response from this audience, but the soaring romance of ‘Close Encounters’ is the show’s real highlight. “She walks through a giant pine forest,” Khan explains beforehand, “and she looks up into the sky and she sees green lights… This song is about making love to someone from the other side.” Making something moving out of something so off-piste is a tough task, but that’s really where Khan’s skill lies.
4. The resolution of ‘I Will Love Again’
The set closes peacefully with ‘I Will Love Again’, the penultimate track from ‘The Bride’. Khan’s vocals are otherworldly, the slowed-up bassline is knockout, and it’ll be one to look out for when the album’s out in July.
5. The ‘treat’ section, but especially ‘Marilyn’
The band leaves the stage, soon returning for a seven-song encore of what Khan’s calling “treats”. On ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’ Khan is totally commanding, on ‘Laura’ her vocal is beautifully bare. There are also notable moments where her normal instrumentation is flipped on its head – ‘Daniel’ becomes spectral and minimalistic, while ‘Horse And I’ swaps harpsichord for bleeping synths and electric guitar.
But it’s Khan’s electrifying, blissed-out performance of slow jam ‘Marilyn’ that eclipses all else, managing to encapsulate all of Khan’s strengths on this evening of – in her own words – “visual balladry”.
Bat For Lashes played:
‘In God’s House’
‘Never Forgive The Angels’
‘If I Knew’
‘I Will Love Again’
‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ (The Carpenters)
‘What’s A Girl To Do?’
‘Horse And I’