(Review by guest blogger: Will W.) La Roux continues its meteoric rise as the UK's hottest new pop act. And if their recent shortlisting for the prestigious Mercury Prize for Best Album is any indication of respect, North America better be ready for an epic invasion soon.
The duo is comprised of androgynous-looking vocalist Elly Jackson and producer Ben Langmaid. Toronto's famed El Mocambo was the venue of choice tonight as part of La Roux's North American tour promoting their eponymous debut from Interscope/Cherrytree Records. Langmaid was in absentia this evening as all focus was drawn to frontwoman Jackson, backed by a three piece band including one drum machine player and two synth keyboardists.
Tonight's set began at 11:15 PM EST starting with "Tigerlily", which was warmly received by the enthusiastic sold-out crowd, mostly 20-something hipsters; their hit "Quicksand" followed. The nine song set, which clocked in at just over 40 minutes, had Jackson starting off on a bit of an awkward note. At one point early in the set, she had to walk off stage to speak to the sound technician as she complained about not being able to hear herself. That problem was quickly resolved after she was instructed on how to properly wear her earphones.
The momentum picked-up shortly after the half-way mark with a delivery of the melodic "As If By Magic". Jackson gave her all in putting forth a very dedicated performance marked by her signature swagger: one-part awkward, one-part cool. The audience was fully dancing by the time "Fascination" was played and it was clear that by the end of the set, the audience had been won over. "In For the Kill" brought the show to a climax, followed by set-closing "Bulletproof", where everybody was on their feet begging for more. This is the mark of success for a small-scale tour and no encore was delivered. To watch a very clear, but distorted audio clip of "Bulletproof", visit http://youtube.com/mrwillw.
In a rush to leave, Jackson and crew could be seen exiting through the backdoor of the club in full audience view, jetting off for their next destination, tomorrow's Osheaga Festival in Quebec.
Although one might have had their doubts about Jackson's live vocal ability, she actually performed very well tonight. Her distinct soprano is delicate and sharp (often called "shrill" by her critics), yet strong in its own right. At age 21, one can only wonder what potential she holds as many parallels are being drawn between her and the legendary Annie Lennox.
Prior to the show, I had a chance to chat with Jackson who was surprisingly approachable and sweet. She mentioned that she brought her best friend along with her on this tour and she made sure to spend some quality time shopping with her earlier in the day. Jackson was even kind enough to personalize my copy of "La Roux" and graciously pose for a photograph with me. Alas, it was her hair that dominated the photo, but it was a lovely experience nonetheless!