Those who maintain that the 1980s revivalism practised by Ladyhawke is without irony clearly overlook the video for “Dusk Till Dawn”, wherein the 27-year-old New Zealander Pip Brown is pursued round her house by “werewolves” in ski masks: it is Jacko’s Thriller meets Jason’s Friday the 13th on Jack Black’s Be Kind Rewind. Her music, though, is such a convincing and hook-laden facsimile of vintage disco-rock and synth-pop that it could come from a time capsule buried 25 years ago, and thus makes Pat Benatar an unlikely doyenne of cool.
The Scala’s boxy cavern was packed for an act that has been championed by the press and the hip parade, but which cannot buy commercial success – more proof that markets are far from perfect, since nearly every track on Ladyhawke’s eponymous debut album is an object lesson in catchiness and craft (and so they should be with collaborators including such copper-bottomed back-room hit makers as Hannah Robinson). Is Brown quite ready for stardom, were it to come knocking? Not yet.
The album’s production polish inevitably rubbed off live, as Brown (left) and her three-man touring band dealt in enjoyably scuzzy power-pop. The guitars were mightier than the mostly programmed keyboard sounds – the riff on “Another Runaway”, possibly the night’s best track, revealing the soft-metal edge of Van Halen. The “na-na-na” vocal chops were, satisfyingly throughout, as insolent as bubblegum chewed open-mouthed, but some of Brown’s stentorian hauteur from the record went missing. Perhaps that was partly because her vocals were a little hidden in the mix. “Magic”, her most obvious Kim Wilde moment, became a virtual duet with the bassist, rather than the singer’s show-stopping big number.
The fringe of her Stevie Nicks mop simply wasn’t low enough to conceal the fact that Brown – in her baggy, day-glo, Homer Simpson T-shirt – was tickled meek by the attention.
Kylie Minogue, reputedly a fan, should offer her tips on stage presence. Bashfully mumbling her thanks, Brown was more Charlene from Neighbours, but it’s mean to call for fewer nerves when you know she has Asperger’s syndrome. “Paris Is Burning” and “My Delirium”, two could-be anthems, gave an energising finale to a brisk and busy set. With greater airplay, Brown might get the break she deserves.
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