Live Review: La Roux with Francis and the Lights at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 10th November 2010

By on Friday, 12th November 2010 at 2:00 pm

So far in my gigging life, I’ve never had to wait so long from the time of purchasing a ticket to actually seeing an act perform as I did for La Roux. I heard ‘Quicksand’ on Steve Lamacq’s show in the summer of 2008 and fell in love. So I was over the moon when I heard she was due to perform in Washington in February 2010. A snowstorm caused that show to be cancelled (her scheduled opening act, Yes Giantess, answered questions for us while they were stuck in DC, busy doing nothing). It got rescheduled for July, but a throat infection sidelined Elly Jackson from the July show and an appearance at Merriweather Post Pavilion at Lilith Fair.

So here we were, a full year after the tickets had gone on sale for the original show, waiting for a late show at the 9:30. Elly Jackson has taken a lot of heat for all the cancellations they’ve had this year, but I was not expecting her to give us a heartfelt apology: “I am so, so sorry. You [Washington] seem to be the target of the most cancellations…but the fourth time’s a charm!” Her admitting this in such a sincere way softened my impression of the gig in general (I won’t go into details here but several punters I encountered were downright rude and I am not eager to return to this place anytime soon.)

I had really wanted to see Yes Giantess open for La Roux but I guess there was a scheduling conflict, because the support was instead a New York duo called Francis and the Lights. I was very confused because when I listened to the song ‘It’ll Be Better’ on their MySpace, I thought, huh? Not a dance band. However, in the live setting, it was obvious they were chosen for the ’80s vibe and sensibility (sounding perfect, considering Jackson’s love of Heaven 17 and other synthesiser-led bands of the era). Lead singer and keyboardist Francis Farewell Starlite had a quiff like Morrissey‘s and was dressed vaguely like Adam Ant. (I say vaguely because he was posing like Adam Ant and I always associate highly stylised military jackets with him.)

Starlite introduced one number as “a song I wrote for Drake“. Did he mean Drake had commissioned him to write a song for him? Or this was a homage to the rapper? Not sure, but they have opened for the hip hop artist so maybe it was the former. They seemed to go down well with the crowd, but I wasn’t sure if this was helped by the fact that since it was so late (the opening band went on at 10:30, with La Roux to follow an hour later), most people there were already sloshed. Starlite also tried had some mad footwork moves, which made the girls squeal. Not my thing. I was very much anxious to see La Roux.

So 11:30 came around the lights went down and a heavy drum thudded, causing the whole club to vibrate. Then came the opening strains of ‘Tigerlily’, with rapturous applause from all sides showering down on Jackson as she arrived on stage to belt out “I can see you burning with desire for a kiss / psychobabble all upon your lips”. Wow. I questioned how great her voice was when I heard her on a 2009 Glastonbury semi-acoustic performance and was not impressed. But seeing her in the flesh Wednesday night, crooning into a microphone directly front of me, made me immediately discard any preconceptions. I was also not expecting amazing dance moves. During ‘I’m Not Your Toy’, she could have moonwalked alongside Jacko without missing a beat. White girl’s got moves! Always fashionable, she looked amazing in a black and gold jacket. Later on she would change into a gold lame jacket for the encore.

I know she’s not a feminist icon or anything, but I have always regarded ‘Bulletproof’, used as the encore this night, as the ultimate feminist anthem. The words come from a woman who has been hurt but has the confidence to move on from the bloke that’s hurt her. It was amazing to see that everyone in the club knew every word and Jackson knew it, putting the microphone down into the crowd during the infectious chorus of “this time baby, I’ll be bulletproof”. Definitely looking forward to the next time La Roux plays in Washington.

Francis and the Lights Photos:

La Roux Set List:
As If By Magic
I’m Not Your Toy
Armour Love
Growing Pains
Under My Thumb (Rolling Stones cover)
Colourless Colour
In for the Kill

La Roux Photos:

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