La Roux, Koko, London

NME Awards with Austin, Texas, Koko, London, February 3 2015

There’s a moment during tonight’s final song – ‘Bulletproof’, the Number one single from La Roux’s self-titled debut album – when the house lights come up temporarily and the band are confronted with the imposing sight of 1,400-odd fans going bat-shit crazy, not just on the floor in front on them, but up high on Koko’s many balconies and levels. A spotlight catches Elly Jackson square in the face, revealing joy, fear and surprise in equal measure. She also looks shattered and there’s the strong sense tonight – at the first of NME’s Awards shows with Austin, Texas – of a chapter ending in Jackson’s life, before a well-deserved break, during which time she finally come to terms with all that’s happened since her second album, ‘Trouble In Paradise’, was released last July.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride – the story of an album that was a critical smash but a commercial flop (by La Roux’s standards) that led to Jackson beefing with her label. Noticeably, her parting words tonight are, “Thank you everyone who supported ‘Trouble In Paradise’, it means a lot to me,” the implication of which is that her fanbase is still split in two: those who joined the partywith ‘Quicksand’, ‘In For The Kill’ and ‘Bulletproof’, her terrific first three singles from 2008-2009, and those who stayed with her for ‘Trouble InParadise’. Before she plays ‘In For The Kill’, she says, “Who remembers 2009?” and it feels like a slight.

Rearranged for Jackson’s impressive four-piece band, ‘In For The Kill’ sounds immense, but no better or worse than tracks from ‘Trouble In Paradise’, which make up the majority of tonight’s set. The band begin inconspicuously with ‘Let Me Down Gently’; ‘Uptight Downtown’ is played thick and heavy; ‘Tropical Chancer’ and ‘Silent Partner’ are reworked into extended jams, almost becoming different songs from their recorded versions. And while it’s clear that Jackson enjoys performing those tracks more than material from her debut, she still delivers the classics with power, imagination and pride.

Phil Hebblethwaite