“We’ve only got one more song,” Pip Brown, better known as Ladyhawke, announces to a cosily intimate crowd at Leeds’s Brudenell Social Club.
A tap on the shoulder from her bassist directs her gaze to her own setlist, upon which she double-takes and gives an abashed grin. “I can’t count, apparently. Make that two more songs.” Her gaffe is one of the few she makes in a near-faultless musical showing that is frustratingly undone by extenuating factors.
Brown is touring behind third album Wild Things, recorded in the wake of kicking alcoholism, overcoming depression and getting married. As such, half of the seventy-minute show is culled from it, an array of joyous honey-dipped pop with deliciously dark centres. Opener The River is all nu-disco grooves and sun-dappled synths over jungle drum rhythms; Sweet Fascination is a perfect package of sugary synthpop; the title track is impassioned, kinetic indietronica, oddly frissionless on record, now a shivery gem.
Unfortunately though, Brown and her band’s tight performance is crippled by a wildly imbalanced sound mix and a relatively passive audience. In the case of the former, Ladyhawke’s vocals are drowned out all too often by her rhythm section, notably on the thudding power-pop of Back of the Van and the post-punk dancefloor strut of Dusk to Dawn, where she struggles to be heard amongst the instrumentation. As for the latter, a notable disinterest pervades the reception of new material at times; the bright, bouncy Golden Girl signals a shuffle to the bar whilst the glorious, eighties-inflected blue-eyed-soul of Chills is unfairly underappreciated.
Thankfully, Brown regains the attention after every lull; Blue Eyes, the lone cut from sophomore effort Anxiety, bristles with taut, jagged surf guitar and Paris is Burning, all clatter-funk inflections and Gary Numan-referential melodies, electrifies the atmosphere. By the time she closes out with brooding signature hit and driving new wave anthem My Delirium, Ladyhawke has captured the zeitgeist of the evening, with an explosion of dancing around the venue; unfortunately, it comes too late to rescue this prodigious talent from shortcomings out of her control.