With five years between each of her three albums, it’s easy to paint Elly Jackson – aka La Roux – with a brush coloured in her massive breakthrough hits. But as Jackson will tell you, as she does at tonight’s show at London club institution Fabric, she absolutely hates her biggest hit – 2009’s Bulletproof. But she’s also not going to disappoint fans, and so a funk and slap bass-encrusted rendition of the hit is aired, a “Fabric exclusive” if you will. But there is far more depth to the La Roux of 2020 than the bright-eyed 21-year-old we first saw making waves back in 2009.
Just days before Jackson’s third studio album Supervision drops, she brings out her live setup to air a good selection of all three records in a blink and you’ll miss it, with the sub-60-minute set. Jackson and her 3-piece band of guitars, bass and percussion, stretching the length of the narrow stage set in front of large neon light panel decked out in La Roux’s beach-tinged aesthetic – palm trees, waves, a swan and an eye amongst other objects in fluctuating hues.
The show kicks off with sophomore record Trouble In Paradise cuts Uptight Downtown and Sexotheque, the five-year-waiting crowd eager to sing along and the ginger-quiffed La Roux declaring of her Fabric stage “this is The Sexotheque” before diving into Supervision single Automatic Driver, the breezy track perfectly suited to tonight’s summer theme, regardless of the near freezing temperatures outside this February evening.
“I don’t go to other people’s gigs because I don’t like them, I just don’t have time” the Herne Hill native self-corrects as she straps on an electric guitar and introduces new song Otherside while implying her set won’t be comprised solely of self-indulgent new material but some fan service as well. Percussion supplied by way of tom-tom drums and the like rather than a traditional drum kit or machine give the songs a Caribbean feel, coupled with the strummed Nile Rodgers-esque electric guitar chords add to the summer breeze feel.
Debut album tune Colourless Colour is the first taste of the record which catapulted a 21-year-old Jackson to stardom, her seasoned counterpart of today taking the track’s instrumental break to encourage the audience to pogo dance-along before the summer-stylings and groove of Supervision are returned to for new album cut Everything I Live For. The Farringdon audience slowly swaying along. Tonight’s rendition of sophomore record song Cruel Sexuality is suitably jazzed-up by the live band, before segueing into its repeating lyrical outro over pre-recorded synths, the crowd taking over vocal duties in its dying seconds.
Guitar-enriched new album opener 21st Century is given an airing to a largely unknowing audience before La Roux tells us of her hatred for hit single Bulletproof. “I wasn’t about to leave you hanging” she reassures. “I really do hate it and I don’t think it works in this set, I’m not going to do it to you and I’m not going to do it to my band and I’m not going to do it to myself” she continues to cheers from some and looks of disbelief from others. “So we’ve remixed it” she adds to cheers before the aforementioned iteration is played. Number 2 hit single In For The Kill follows quickly, easily receiving the biggest cheers of the night.
Shouts for debut album cut Tigerlilly are shot down “not on this tour, maybe later in the year” Jackson quips before debut Supervision single International Woman Of Leisure closes out the set. Chants for “one more song” are met simply by the lights being turned up and guitar cases being brought out to begin the stage clear-up to the shock and miffed dissatisfaction of the expectant audience.
While La Roux’s distinctive falsetto and 1980s-derivative synth-pop seem largely reserved for cuts from her self-titled debut album, the more guitar-led breezy tunes that comprise her later releases are clearly where her heart lies. And it is seeing Elly Jackson’s enjoyment performing these newer, perhaps more personal, songs that is reflected by the warmth of her hometown audience.
Supervision was released on 7th February on Jackson’s own independent label Supercolour following the star being unceremoniously but “freeingly” dropped by Polydor by mail on New Year’s Day 2015. Following her two dates at London’s Fabric alongside in-store performances at the likes of Banquet Records and Rough Trade East, La Roux will take her show on the road with 3 European dates next week ahead of a 14-date North American tour.
Live review & photography of La Roux at Fabric on 4th February 2020 by Kalpesh Patel.