Icy cool electronics fail to inject life into Belfast's Stiff Kitten
Everything about Ladytron smacks of cool – from being named after a Roxy Music track to opening for Bjork and remixing Gang of Four– but on tonight’s evidence these electro-pop darlings of the indie press could do with a little more perspiration and a little less posing.
Since being formed in 1999 Ladytron have successfully created a niche for their (reasonably) distinct brand of pop-inspired analogue electronica – think Broadcast meets Kraftwerk via Joy Division and you won’t be far wrong – and they arrive in Belfast’s Stiff Kitten as part of a major tour to promote critically acclaimed album number four, Velocifero.
On stage, Ladytron look just as arch and unflustered as they appear on record. The two ice maiden chanteuses (Glaswegian Helen Marnie and Bulgarian Mira Aroyo, who bravely took the stage despite breaking an ankle just prior to the show) dominate the front, with the knob twiddlers - Liverpool DJs Reuben Wu and Daniel Hunt – discretely bringing up the rear
Ladytron have the sartorial style - the girls wear black tunes, the bassist sports a funky early 80s' guitar -and the tunes – ‘Runaway’, all breathy vocals and heavy synths, stands out – but live it too often fails to translate into anything genuinely arresting and engaging.
Any why? Well at barely 50 minutes it’s an almost criminally short set – if you pay 12 quid for a gig on a Saturday night you probably don’t expect to be turfed onto the street by ten to ten, and you might not think an encore an unreasonable request.
In fairness, Ladytron aren’t given a lot to work with. The sound in Stiff Kitten has never been great – as anyone at the previous week’s Neon Neon show could testify – but tonight it plumbs new depths. When the synths boom the PA creaks, and too often Marnie’s between song banter dissipates into inaudible crackles and hisses.
The pace is so pedestrian during the first half hour that studied nonchalance too often gives way to somnambulance but things do pick up markedly in the last 20 minutes. On energetic crowd favourites ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’ and ‘Sugar’ Ladytron show a more vital – even passionate – side of themselves.
‘They only want you when you're seventeen/When you're twenty-one you're no fun,’ sings Marnie on curtain closer ‘Seventeen’, her eyes peering out across the Belfast crowd from beyond a tight black fringe. On record Ladytron may have come of age with Velocifero but live they could definitely do with a bit more teenage joie de vivre.