Show Review: La Roux at The Fillmore, 4/14/10

by Jason LeRoy on April 15, 2010

Elly Jackson doing the British ginger strut at The Fillmore last night.

La Roux performed their third San Francisco concert in less than a year last night at The Fillmore, and it was a roof-shaking culmination of everything that’s been hinted at by their smaller-scale previous appearances.

Unbeknown to me, La Roux and its memorably coiffed lead singer, Elly Jackson (who was born in 1988 somebody shoot me), have become a really big deal. On the strength of their lone eponymous LP, they played last night to a sold-out crowd of utterly enraptured ladies, gays, and lady-gays.

The kids love their La Roux, and they’re not afraid to show it. And Jackson, despite her reputation for being somewhat humorless and anti-fame in the manner of a British ginger Kristen Stewart, certainly doesn’t seem to be rejecting the attention. Or at least that’s the impression I got from the massive poster of her bronzed face that hung behind the band throughout their performance.

Although La Roux is a Goldfrapp-style collaboration between Jackson on vocals and Ben Langmaid on synths and co-writing/production credits, Jackson is clearly the audience draw. She is a wonderfully idiosyncratic pop star, with her naturally androgynous appearance and bleeding-heart voice that sounds equal parts animal and robot when soaring to its plaintive highest octave. She is a genuinely bigger freak than Lady Gaga without having to try nearly as hard, which is part of what endears her to her fans.

When she took the stage last night, in a black jacket with exaggerated white lapels that made her look like Klaus Nomi as channeled by Tilda Swinton, Jackson’s tone was one of apology and gratitude: during La Roux’s last appearance in SF, at Great American Music Hall in October, Jackson was too ill to perform a full set. She mustered enough strength to perform about five songs before apologetically calling it quits. Granted, a “full set” is already a relative term in La Roux’s universe, given that they only have the one album. But still, fans were deprived of the full album performance they’d been expecting.

But after apologizing to those who attended that performance (including yours truly) and thanking them profusely for being “so nice” that night, Jackson and her touring band (Michael Norris on keyboards and computers, Mickey O’Brien on keyboards and backing vocals, and William Bowerman on drums) launched into a go-for-broke set that obliterated any lingering hesitations we might have had about their capacity to put on a full-length show.

As I’ve mentioned, La Roux just have the one album, so they’re a bit strapped for material. But if Jackson and her band are tired of doing the same twelve songs every night, they certainly hid it well. In addition to the singles (“Quicksand,” “In For The Kill,” “I’m Not Your Toy,” and the inevitable encore of “Bulletproof,” all of which were appropriately spaced apart throughout the set) and everything in between, the crowd was also treated to a few special surprises.

For one, the band went off-album for a rousing rendition of their UK iTunes bonus track, “Saviour.” They also played what Jackson claimed was their very first live performance of their album’s closing track, “Growing Pains.” She only disclosed this to the crowd after the song had ended, due to a lyric flub she’d committed in the middle of it. “That was actually our very, very first time doing that song live. I didn’t tell you beforehand because I thought, ‘Well, if I don’t fuck it up, they’ll never know.’ But I did fuck it up, so I thought I should tell you why.” To which I thought, “Wait, you only have one fucking album to play but you’ve  been sitting on one of the songs this entire time?” But whatever, she seems to have overcome it now.

Then, in perhaps the biggest shock of the evening, La Roux did a cover song. While this would be a matter of course for most performers, Jackson expressed her chilly dismay with the entire concept of “cover songs” and artists performing them at concerts. The crowd clearly wasn’t feeling her on this point, because the moment she said “cover” the place went apeshit. But she explained that they’d “accidentally” started playing this song, and had quite grown to enjoy it. After this unnecessary apology/explanation, they launched into an amazing electro cover of “Under My Thumb” by The Rolling Stones.

It was by far La Roux’s best and biggest showing in the Bay Area yet. They’ve already cultivated one hell of a Bay Area following on the strength of a single album, so one can only imagine how much they’ll expand as they continue.

P.S. – While researching Jackson on Wikipedia, I found this unattributed little tidbit:

"In May 2006, Jackson was involved in a canoeing accident which left her with one leg. Although replaced with a prosthetic limb, fans at concerts often chant 'Oi peggy' which has led to Jackson refusing to play at certain venues. Jackson has since hosted the pride of Britain awards as she is seen as an aspirational figure."

Umm. Not that Jackson wouldn’t be capable of dancing around onstage with a prosthetic limb, but I feel like this would probably be more widely known if it were true. I Googled every combination of “Elly Jackson” and “prosthetic leg” I could think of, but only Wikipedia came up in the results. Perhaps an April Fools gag that went unnoticed? Do her fans really “often chant ‘Oi peggy'” at her shows? Save it for Heather Mills, you guys.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cat September 30, 2010 at 1:40 pm

that canoe story was obviously just a prank, not real, no evidence

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