La Roux's Elly Jackson all talent at the Commodore
At the Commodore Ballroom on Sunday, April 18
Right around the time the chick working the beat machine for Piper Davis slipped a glove onto her right hand, one thing became clear at the Commodore on Sunday: the night would be a homage to the decade that gave us Duran Duran, John Hughes, and the most famously foppish hairdos this side of 17th-century France. Pop culture currently has a major obsession with the '80s that, of course, reared its mighty head with La Roux, which headlined the show.
Local electro-blues spitfire Davis, usually highly regarded by her fellow Vancouverites, couldn't have been less appreciated as the opening act. The singer's downtempo songs and minimalist dance moves weren't cutting it for the impatient crowd, one member of which voiced his displeasure by huffing “Ugh, these guys fucking suck.” You are a class act, buddy.
Technically an electro-pop duo comprising of singer Elly Jackson and synth jockey Ben Langmaid, La Roux expanded to a full band on this night, the added players providing plenty of colour. (Well, okay, maybe it was the semi-psychedelic light show behind them.) But the evening's show-stealer was the ginger-haired, Tintin-coiffed Jackson. Sporting a fitted jacket that channelled the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, her hair pouffed to an impressive height (how the hell does that thing stay up, anyway?), the singer had fans of both sexes enraptured.
A screaming mob of chicks ate up the synthed-out kickoff song, “Tigerlily”. While wrapping up that crowd-pleaser, Jackson noted that every time she comes to Vancouver she “can always smell weed”, eliciting a chorus of whoops and hollers from local members of the 420 club.
Many in the audience might have been baked, but that didn't stop them from singing along en masse to such favourites as “I'm Not Your Toy”, “Quicksand”, and “Colourless Colour”. La Roux, meanwhile, strayed somewhat from its obvious love affair with the '80s to play the Rolling Stones' “Under My Thumb”, albeit with a poppy sheen.
Though Jackson's stage presence doesn't exactly bring to mind Mick Jagger, she seemed quite comfortable at the packed Commodore Ballroom. When she wasn't running around on-stage or dipping the mike stand as if it were her flamenco partner, she was pointing the mike at members of the crowd who, judging by the ferocity of their overenthusiastic wailing, must have thought they were auditioning for American Idol.
If there's one thing that absolutely must be noted, it's that Jackson's voice is impeccable. She was so flawless in her execution that her performance almost raised the question of whether she was lip-synching. On close inspection, the flame-haired singer seemed to be all talent and no fakery. There were no Milli Vanilli tactics, but if Jackson had forgotten the words to any of her songs, she could easily have passed the mike into the crowd, who didn't miss a line for the entire show.
La Roux capped off the set with fan favourites “In for the Kill” and “Fascination”, before bidding the audience adieu. Called back for the inevitable encore, the band and its golden-voiced frontwoman returned to give the faithful a bone-chillingly unblemished version of the hit “Bulletproof”. The screaming mob didn't seem to mind La Roux's almost clinical devotion to the original recording.
If the reaction of Sunday's electro-fixated synth-pop enthusiasts is any indication, the '80s aren't going anywhere soon. And La Roux fans will be at the forefront of the postmodern celebration. Yes, it's once again okay to style your hair to look as though there's an enraged owl perched atop your head. Except this time, you won't need an armed guard to ensure your safety the second you get outside of Vancouver's downtown core.