Liverpool-based Ladytron’s electrifying show at the 9:30 Club was exactly what one would expect from a band that literally started the electroclash movement and heavily influenced an entire generation of bands like Empire Of The Sun, Holy Ghost, Royksopp, Yelle, and Client, to name a few…and practically the entirely neo-electro movement, in truth. It would not be an exaggeration to put Ladytron’s legacy near New Order’s—you know you have longevity in the flash-in-pan electro scene when you can release a greatest hits album of ten years, like Ladytron has. While some of their contemporaries like Miss Kittin and Felix Da Housecat and the electroclash movement as a whole lost its luster in the pop-music zeitgeist, Ladytron continued their reign by consistently putting out excellent albums. A decade-long career and five stellar album releases later, Ladytron proved equally relevant and original [stodgy “forefather” label be damned] as when they first introduced their synth-driven electropop sound.
Since the days of Kraftwerk, it is no big secret that it’s pretty hard to make knob-twiddling and keyboard-button-pushing sexy or particularly thrilling live—it’s the nature of the beast when it comes to electronica. Ladytron’s live show, however, was a really interesting mix of light and well…magic. The band and a well-executed light show were the only components yet they proved more than ample. Lead vocalist Helen Marnie was channeling some sort of a Princess Leia-meet choirgirl-meet nun white get-up, while Mira Aroyo resembled a beautiful porcelain doll. The combined effect was something best described as “demure/pneumatic babydoll chique.” They weren’t going for “sexy” but it was mannequin hot nevertheless—thrilling you with chillness?
The band opened with “Ghosts,” “International Dateline” [whose refrain, “International dateline; let’s end it here” was particularly modern and apropos in its sentiment] and with a new song called “Mirage” off their September-released album, Gravity The Seducer. Helen Marnie was doing the majority of the vocals, in a Jane Birkin-esque lilt, which isn’t always the case on their albums where the two vocalist share in their efforts. It wasn’t until “True Mathematics” that Mira Aroyo stepped away from her very concerted synth-operating duties to deliver an adorably-cute Bulgarian nursery-rhyme vocal on the song. As a fellow countrywoman, there is no doubt that Mira is, by FAR, the coolest and greatest Bulgarian export, period—and no, don’t groan about how there are no other Bulgarian exports! It is especially endearing that so many of the Bulgarian lyrics she sings are all either snippets from old folk rhymes or are very haiku-esque and sparse, yet she delivers them in this brilliant stern-detached-school-marm-way that works so perfectly. No wonder the Bulgarian contingent in the audience last night chanted, “Mira, ti si super!” [Mira, you are the best!].
The energy continued to build with Ladytron’s performance of their hits—“Runaway,” “Ace Of Hz” [both off their more recent releases], “Discotraxx,” and “Seventeen.” The song’s “They only want you when you are 17, when you are 21, you are no fun,” was a cheeky commentary on the length of the pop culture attention span nowadays. They also performed “White Elephant” off the new album and “Little Black Angel” from their greatest hits album. The show ended with a raucous performance of “Destroy Everything You Touch” that was especially apropos—sonic destruction of awesomeness abounded.
The show was a testament to what has kept Ladytron going through an entire decade with such sustained success—their music might be machine-made but it has always remained organic and melodic despite its method of creation. While knob-twiddling and button-pushing has become the norm, they’ve always kept their hand on the human pulse.