Last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared a national public health emergency due to the swine flu outbreak and recommended that people wash their hands frequently and avoid crowds. Judging by how closely people were packed into the Bat for Lashes show at the Williamsburg Music Hall last night, however, the memo hasn’t reached the hipster playpen yet. The show was Natasha Khan’s second New York engagement of the week, following a gig at Bowery Ballroom on Thursday, for which her set list was identical but her outfit was not. Khan reportedly sported wings similar to the creepy dolls that accompany her on stage during the band’s East Coast tour, but she eschewed the faux-appendage look in favor of a simple, black-and-white striped jumper and black lace fingerless gloves.
The show opened with “Glass” and “Sleep Alone,” the marvelous one-two punch that kicks off Bat for Lashes’s latest album, Two Suns. The latter, in particular, translated live spectacularly, all thumping bass and spacey synths that sounded bigger, bassier, and spacier than they do on disc. The best songs from the album, in fact, also provided the night’s headiest moments: “Siren Song,” for which Khan took to her Christmas light-adorned keyboard alongside a kitschy red lamp and Jesus statuette; the PJ Harvey-esque “Peace of Mind,” one of the few songs for which she donned a guitar; and the tribal “Two Planets.” Early in the night, the band performed a nicely stripped-down version of the single “Daniel,” but a full-throttle encore of the new-new wave track was a highlight, as were “Horse & I” and “What’s a Girl to Do,” both from 2007’s Fur and Gold.
Aside from a few sharp notes here and there, Khan’s vocals were remarkably on point; she wailed with an astonishing clarity throughout songs like “Glass” and “Pearl’s Dream.” And her talent is eclipsed only by her striking beauty, one that—during a solo rendition of “Prescilla,” in which Khan declares that she’s “been thinking about having a couple of kids”—no doubt inspired one male fan to publicly offer to sire the singer’s children…even under the threat of the H1N1 Influenzavirus.