Natasha Khan dances with an ‘aren’t I silly’ look on her face, she is clearly having fun but there is always an ounce of self consciousness in her eyes. Even after her voice reaches great range and volume during her songs, she quietly and calmly addresses the HMV Institute audience, bashfully introducing songs from her new album The Haunted Man. She says: “Thanks for listening to the new ones” as if everyone is just stood bored throughout them, waiting for the material from her first two albums. But it’s those new songs that are the real highlights tonight, sung and performed with such grace to make her humility seem out of place.

As she jerks and swishes her striped dress around to album and set opener “Lilies” she brandishes a drum stick, pausing to strike a drum sampler. The hits don’t clearly materialise in the mix, but even her calls for more volume are in time with the music, never causing her always perfect voice to falter. Khan’s climatic cry of “thank god I’m alive” is a joyous and emotional moment, a moment that is miles removed from her impassioned dancing. She makes the transition from fun dance songs to emotional rawness several times throughout her set, making it smoothly every time. She finds the sensual synthpop groove of “Oh Yeah” as easily as she finds the emotional weight of piano ballad “Laura”. For which she is accompanied by a lone pianist, whilst open-heartedly singing from centre stage in the glow of several spotlights, it’s bareness and sincerity is captivating. It’s a performance that makes her earlier request for forgiveness for having a croaky speaking voice seem even more puzzling, as her singing voice still remains untouched.

“That’s a special little one that didn’t make the album. But I felt sorry for it”, Khan says after a Haunted Man outtake that is a tinkling music box vocal piece. The crackling static electric beats of “Marilyn” accompany the huge chorus, and the audience provides the clapping rhythm under Khan’s autoharp strings and gentle chorus hook on “Prescilla”. A adrenaline pumping version of Two Suns track “Pearl’s Dream” is the main set closer, it’s loud drums and unhinged thrashing energy earning it a rapturous response.

After a very brief pause Khan and her band return to the stage for their encore. The male choir featured on her new album title track “The Haunted Man”, may or may not have been provided by the vintage radio that Khan held up to her microphone. But it provided a beautiful, triumphant and theatrical moment as she thrust it to the heavens John Cusack style as she explodes into the final verse singing “now I’m holding out my hand”. It’s borderline ridiculous, but it works as a physical embodiment of the songs vocal climax, as her actions match the power of what she is singing. “Relax, be patient it’s coming” said Khan, playfully, in response to an earlier audience call for her biggest and most beloved hit “Daniel”, an encore that everyone knows is coming. “And now you get your request” she says before the obvious closer, and of course, just like the new material that she needs to give more credit to, it’s a hit.

4/5

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