I’m so fortunate to witness the growing force that is La Roux. It’s taken a year, but the British electro-pop duo is finally making their mark in the U.S., mostly propelled by increased club and radio play of “Bulletproof.” I missed their late 2009 gig at Santos Party House, but caught their February 2010 show at Webster Hall. Tonight they’ve moved on up to an even bigger venue, Terminal 5.
When I covered their show then, I compared La Roux to ’80s synth-pop duo Yaz, and I stand by that observation. After seeing this show, I’m even more infatuated with front woman Elly Jackson. Completely androgynous and not a fan of mascara or eye make-up, she’s an enigma. I’m a fan as La Roux has been on heavy rotation on my iPod since October. Check out the video for “I’m Not Your Toy,” which features Elly’s signature coif. “It’s all forced love and affection. You don’t like me, you just want the attention. I’m not your toy.” You sing it, Elly. I couldn’t say it better.
Tonight La Roux opened with “Tigerlily” and then “Quicksand.” Elly welcomed the raucous New York crowd and beamed that after playing here over the last 10 months, “we’re finally ‘liked’ here.” Her parents were in the crowd to witness the love, as well as a mystery man who Elly proclaimed her love for (I later discovered it was David Burn of the Talking Heads, whom she met that night). Perhaps the most special guest was the other half of La Roux, her co-writer, co-producer and keyboardist Ben Langmaid. Ben does not tour with La Roux, he’s a behind-the-pen, behind-the-keys studio guy, and she tours with other musicians. Then Elly asked if we were ready to dance and then came “I’m Not Your Toy.” Joy.
What I liked about this concert is that it brought out the softer, more vulnerable side of La Roux. I love their ballads, “Armour Love” and “Close My Eyes.” Both highlights of the evening. My other favorite moment was an brilliant synth cover of the Rolling Stones “Under My Thumb.” Very cool. She also played an acoustic song that’s not on their album, but was really beautiful. It was nice to see her sit down and just pick at her guitar while she delivered her signature “oooohs.”
La Roux went on to cover almost every song off their album, except one of my favorites, “As If By Magic,” which still eludes me after seeing them twice. But what they did play was solid. “Colourless Colour” was a lot of fun, as was “Growing Pains.” By the time Elly got to the final songs of the night, “In For The Kill” and “Fascination” I could really tell she was struggling to keep her voice. I don’t know if she was sick or she just pushed her voice too much at the start of the show, but I felt bad she could not hit some of the notes for their best known songs. Fortunately, the crowd didn’t care, and I neither did I. She was working it and sang her face off. For the encore, “Bulletproof.” Crowd went mad. I’m sure her parents were proud. I’m definitely looking forward to what La Roux brings us next.