VIDEO: La Roux live at the Paradise, January 31, 2010
"I could have been singing this at the Grammys — but I'm here with you tonight," declared Elly Jackson, the public face of La Roux, with a detectable dash of annoyance folded into several dollops of playful sarcasm. On a night when so many are plopped down on their couch to celebrate a year that saw so many female superstars rise to the top of Pop Mountain, this sold-out crowd at the Paradise was ecstatic to see the Boston debut of the playfully idiosyncratic Jackson (especially after a postponement from last October). And even though tonight's show lacked the pyro and star-power wattage of whatever was going down at the Staples Center on the West Coast, it more than made up for it with the giddy enthusiasm of a young star living out her dream, one sold out club at a time.
Unlike here, Elly and La Roux are superstars with a string of #1 hits in their native Old Blighty — which is maybe why her performance tonight finds Jackson and Co. in particularly feisty form. From the first notes of "Tigerlily," as a buzzing digital cascade serenades a happy-feet Jackson out onto the stage-cum-dancefloor, the group (Jackson and three dour-looking young people who stand relatively unmoved throughout behind synths and digipads) are all business, playing every song with high-energy and visible determination. La Roux's music is hard to describe, and especially difficult to compare to anything else out there right now: her songs sit themselves right down in the pop corner, but also contain contradictory elements of blustery soul and chilly techno that all combine to form an organically gothic blue-eyed electro-pop. Jackson's stage presence is as unusual: her trademark red mane dippity-do'd in a swirl that wouldn't look out of place on a Bob's Big Boy statue; her shadow-dancing a perfect mixture of both Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles.
But all attempts to place Elly's signature steez in a box seem lame when she's turning an entire club out simply by dancing around and belting out her hits, one after the next. On record, Jackson's limited range can start to wear, but live, her songs take on new life. "In for the Kill" was a peak moment, as was the one-two punch of "Colourless Colour" (during which a crazed Roux fan crashed the stage for an extended dance solo).
"We need some security here — these club shows, man!" hollered Jackson. The loose-yet-intense vibe she brought to the Paradise tonight was likely a result of being face-to-face with her fans in a way that her massive fame overseas rarely allows her. As she lost herself in the final beat blast of "Bulletproof," it was heartening to see a typically reserved pop chanteuse starting to come into her own. You don't get this kind of thing at the Grammys.