Echo, the sort you hear in an old church, has come to play a significant role in Bat for Lashes’ concert sound. Drum beats and the vocals of Natasha Khan are heavily treated with reverb, creating an illusory effect that adds sonic distance between performer and audience. The result Monday at a sold-out Music Box Theater was cold and off-putting — an effect reinforced by the compartmentalizing of the booming material in the first 50 minutes and of the soft ballads, among them the radio hit “Daniel,” in the final quarter of the show.
Bat for Lashes, the performance name used by the Pakistan-born Brit Khan, has issued two exquisite albums (“Fur and Gold” in ’06 and “Two Suns” in April) that meld art school quirkiness with back-to-nature communion. The debut was rich in fairy-tale qualities; the new disc is more of a balancing act between the drum driven and the parlor performance, with the placid ballad “Daniel” taking hold on alternative radio. Khan’s voice is remarkable on its own, and it’s a pity it sounded so processed for much of the night, greatly dimming an opportunity to revel in the directness of her lyrics.
Khan has posited “Two Suns” as a pair of dueling alter egos, Bat and Pearl. Yet for her first 50 minutes onstage with a trio that moved among several instruments, she was keen only on exploring her vision of a desert shaman’s ritual. The set backdrop of a baying wolf and a full moon was cliched to begin with; her fringe-laden dress and slow creeping moves evoked an odd Woodstock Gothic mien that was simply not convincing.
The small touches were nice — the tinkling bells, harpsichord and autoharp — but they mostly took a secondary position to the pounding beats and, too often, bore too much resemblance to the work of Dead Can Dance. “What’s a Girl to Do?,” arguably the finest song on Khan’s debut album, received a distinguished perf, its celebration a Gothic twist on the Phil Spector sound, blossoming in rounded splendor.