Kyla La Grange
Oval Space, Bethnal Green – 19th November 2015
Smoke steadily fills the stage, glowing electric blue as it catches the iridescent hue of the stage lights. A string of wild flowers coil up the vacant mic stand, while pink fairy lights wrap around a slender archway that takes centre stage between the twin synth and drum rigs of Kyla La Grange’s touring party. Drifting into this hazy wonderland comes the waif-like songstress herself, arriving barefoot with a delicate whirl of her kimono. Small and slender, with a coquettish charm and cheeky wit she resembles a mischievous forest spright let loose to dazzle and entertain the eager throng gathered in the modest East London performance space.
La Grange plays the crowd effortlessly, one minute shy and almost painfully modest while the next she shifts easily back into her coy stage persona, sauntering and sashaying across the stage as her vocals soar above a shimmering melange of guitar, synth and drums. Comparisons to Florence and the Machine and Ellie Goulding are obvious but well deserved. As for the songs themselves, she rarely puts a foot wrong. The audience explode into life when she unleashes standout 2014 single Cut Your Teeth, which has racked up over two million YouTube views and a string of mid-table chart positions across Scandinavia thanks to a remix from precocious viral sensation Kygo.
The singalong chorus of I Don’t Hate You has the venue delightedly chanting the words back at her, while Fly and Maia also get a warm reception. A mid-set peak is provided courtesy of fan favourite Vampire Smile from 2012 debut Ashes, a delirious ripple of excitement spreading through the crowd as an acoustic guitar materialises around her neck for this angst-ridden classic.
It’s by no means not all heartbreak and pain though… La Grange wryly interweaves a generous helping of humour between songs, revealing a refreshing self-deprecation as she jokes about the subject matter of the songs while casually downplaying her onstage banter (“I’ve got a few jokes for tonight, but my material is quite weak…”).
When introducing infectious new track Violet Blue she admits that during the writing process she and the band had been “listening to a lot of ‘80s Whitney… and Taylor Swift”, before turning away with an embarrassed smile and stifled laugh. But she is certainly not shy of debuting new material, much of which is rumoured for a new LP next year, opening the set with the radio-friendly pop of Hummingbird, as well as nestling new single So Sweet in the middle of the set.
She rounds off the night with a finale of contrasts, inducing irresistible swaying with the tropical calypso beats of The Knife, before strapping on an electric guitar that she proceeds to pound the living daylights out of for atmospheric, cathartic closer Cannibals, given added gravitas with a bombardment of frenetic strobing.
But as if wanting to leave on a more celebratory note, she reappears for a single song encore, launching in to Kygo’s version of internet smash Cut Your Teeth. The widely popularised ‘tropical house’ vibe synonymous with the Norwegian DJ fills the room and La Grange seems to revel in it, dancing around with almost as much fervour as her satiated fans. Bidding a bashful goodbye she leaves the stage as unassumingly as she took to it. With her purple tinged hair, love of bodypaint and arsenal of credible but highly danceable music, 2016 could well be a big year for the festival-friendly image of Kyla La Grange.
Words: Henry Wickham