Forced into isolation, there’s been more than enough opportunity to reflect on ourselves and the world around us over the last year. The little cabin Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan performs her latest livestream from (April 9) seems like the perfect place to have some epiphanies on transformation: plants bathe in the orange glow of opulent lamps, as curtains block out whatever’s outside and make it feel like a soothing sanctuary.
Khan’s set suggests that that’s at least partly true. As she shares stories between songs, she talks often of change and especially how her perspective on her own material has shifted over the years as her life has evolved.
Towards the end of the set, she plays ‘Joe’s Dream’ from 2016’s ‘The Bride’, recreating it – as with nearly every song here – on keys alone. She notes that, while it’s a song about “bad things” happening to you, the experiences of 2020 have made it more positive to her. “For me, this song is realising you had the power all along and – perhaps subconsciously – this was an invitation to transform and change,” she explains. “What does it mean?/ The bad things I’ve seen,” she ponders as the song comes to a close; you can’t help but consider the ways we’ve searched for meaning and value in this torrid period.
The star’s life has changed significantly on a personal level recently, too. This is the first performance she’s given since having a baby and she jokes as she struggles with an omnichord that “mum brain is real”. When she plays the desperate ‘Lilies’ from 2012’s ‘The Haunted Man’, she gets caught up in its sentiment, recalling writing it when she was yearning for a child. “Singing it now, having my little girl – it’s super emotional,” she says, but even without Khan’s personal attachment, it’s a moving highlight of the set.
Transformation comes into play more obviously tonight, with the musician’s stripped-back arrangements of songs that are usually lush with layers. Sat behind a keyboard, she shares softer, sparser versions of old favourites (the spooky break-up song ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’, ‘Kids In The Dark’) and “more obscure special treats” (a cover of The Carpenters’ ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, her Twilight soundtrack contribution ‘Let’s Get Lost’).
Most stunning of all is the finale, 2012’s ‘Deep Sea Diver’, which rarely makes it into Bat For Lashes shows thanks to its reliance on “old-school synths and arpeggios”. Khan’s version here takes the audience right into the heart of the song, unveiling a message of strength and hope that feels both comforting and invigorating as we (hopefully) start to move closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. We should soon be free from our own individual, metaphorical cabins, but Khan’s sanctuary will always exist for us in her music, no matter what life throws at us next.