Flipping the calendar two and half decades back, Ray Davies of The Kinks launched a tour that would become the template for the VH1 Storytellers series, when performers would play stripped down versions of some of their songs while adding in details about how or why they wrote that particular song. The concept still has legs, and Natasha Khan (aka Bat For Lashes) has embarked on a short tour with just a keyboard/vocalist and her robust songbook, her first visit to Boston since a 2013 Boston Calling appearance.
She also has a new entry to her discography in the form of last year’s Lost Girls, a title she said was inspired by the Jason Patric/Keifer Sutherland (and the two Coreys) teen classic The Lost Boys after a visit to Santa Cruz but inverted to suit her particular vision. The songs were supported by just simple keyboard melody lines and textural fills, dominated by Khan’s beautiful vocals. Other inspirations included “Desert Man,” where colors instead of notes were coming directly from her time at Death Valley, and “Close Encounters” dealt directly with her alien abduction thoughts. Chaka Khan was not surprisingly instrumental in “Feel For You,” memories as a teen of dancing and singing in her mother’s kitchen. Khan’s really talented at merging disparate pop elements into well-constructed songs that resonate deeply. It wasn’t surprising to see her take what is probably Don Henley’s best song and reinvent from a completely different, female perspective. Not quite as startling effective as Cat Power’s inversion of “Satisfaction” but it comes close.
Khan’s got more than a touch of sounding like a teenaged Kate Bush who listened to The Cure in her bedroom for hours on end (I know the timeline doesn’t support my theory but let’s stick with it), and was no surprise that the encore would have a Bush song, the wonderful and on-target “This Woman’s Work” in the middle. The closer of Roy Orbison via Cindy Lauper’s “I Drove All Night” scrubbed the 80’s sheen off Lauper’s version and instead directly connected to the quiet desperation of the original, underscoring it by slowing the tempo in a very effective way. At just about 75 minutes, the set was shorter than expected but no one left the venue disappointed.