Gary Flockhart: Lashes of talent on display at city gig

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MUCH has been made of Natasha Khan’s decision to ditch the shimmery face paints, gold headdresses and hippy accessories as she steps out to promote The Haunted Man, the third album in her Bat For Lashes guise.

“Maybe to other people it seems like I’ve tried to reinvent myself, but it’s not in a Madonna-y conscious way,” she says. “I don’t want to go out wearing glittery headbands again because I did that seven years ago.”

Having nonetheless given her image an overhaul, the Natasha Khan who stood before us at the HMV Picture House on Friday couldn’t have looked more different from the Natasha Khan who last played the venue in December 2009.

The long locks have been clipped into a neat bob and rather than running riot with the dressing-box she wore a simple backless gown with just a dash of make-up.

If the look was more business-like and mature – in short, she no longer dresses like an extra from Labyrinth – then the music has taken on a subtle air of sophistication as well.

The Haunted Man may be Khan’s best album yet and, having notched Mercury nominations for her previous two offerings - Fur And Gold and Two Suns - you can expect her to be in the running again.

On the stage, those Kate Bush comparisons were understandable as the captivating Khan displayed her piercing vocals, backed by a band whose impressive playing brought the mystical, otherworldly music to life without taking the attention away from her theatrical performance.

All told, this was as good a gig as I’ve been to in ages, and, not for the first time, it had me scratching my head as to why the infinitely superior Khan doesn’t sell as many records as her flame-haired contemporary Florence Welch.