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Live review: La Roux in for the kill at the Roxy

April 13, 2009 |  6:19 pm


The British singer Elly Jackson, one half of the electro-pop duo La Roux, has one particularly great dance move. It's something of a rhythmic stagger that suggests she might have been very recently clipped by a shot from a Saturday night special in a '40s noir flick. It's one of many odd things that La Roux did exactly and unexpectedly right at the Roxy Sundaynight. The show that heralded the arrival of yet another great U.K. '80s acolyte with a quiver of singles that should, for all intensive purposes, be owning clubland this summer.

The set was purposefully brief -- at most 10 songs -- yet hit all the notes to suggest La Roux is warming up for something bigger. Opener "In For the Kill" was a "Less Than Zero"-inspired vision of the decade when it was an FCC rule that all music videos must have the stars driving angular Japanese cars around perilous cliff-side switchbacks at night. The last few years has seen mainstream pop wholly embrace the four-on-the-floor dance beat, but La Roux rarely uses one, instead favoring the reverbed-out rototoms of "Tigerlily" and "Reflections Are Protection" and synthesizers that manage to be really funny in their wink-nudge retro worship and really sonically interesting at once.

"Quicksand" is the sure-shot hit here, and makes fabulous use of a steel drum sample and witchy harmonies that, mercy of mercies, Jackson can hit live every time. She's not kidding when she talks about her attachment to her Flock of Seagulls hair (it's even more geometrically impressive in person), but her goofy charisma was enough to fill most of the gaps left by the fact that her band Sunday night was just her and a synth player. Get her a drummer and a laser rig and she'll have much bigger spaces than the Roxy in the cards.

Local instrumental duo El Ten Eleven led off the night with an intriguing set of techno-inspired tunes with the unusual virtue of being played by live rock instruments. They made judicious use of looping devices and finger-tapping solos on double-neck guitars that, while massively impressive from a technical end, seemed to miss something central in the songwriting. Whatever that ingredient was, La Roux had it in spades, and whenever she gets around to a proper album, I'd be shocked if there's one flat moment on it.

-- August Brown

Photo by Laila Derakhshanian