Thursday, 6 December 2012

Ultraista – Relay, London Bridge

What do I love about Ultraista? Definitely Laura Bettinson’s voice, the tracks are a mix of Moloko and Massive Attack in spirit and all put together by Nigel Godrich (of Radiohead) and Joey Waronker.

Relay is the newly opened sister live venue to Cable nightclub, and although getting in felt like going into prison, I.D, scanned and bags searched by very grumpy security, once in, the bar staff were friendly and everything amounted to an intimate gig and probably the nicest venue I've seen a band in so far.

So a stylish and intimate venue and I love her voice; why have I stalled doing this review?  I had a good time but what was bitterly disappointing was the vocals I’d been loving and eager to hear were mimed to the point of vintage Top of the Pops ‘you’re singing and your mouth is closed’.

In my opinion, Bettison was singing about as much as anyone would do along to a record and sometimes singing backing rather than the main part which just looked kind of odd. Now don’t get me wrong, I still love the debut album and the show was good if that’s a minor detail for you. Bettinson’s stage presence, her faux Marilyn Monroe looks all works; she’s kind of quirky and full of energy, probably because she’s not bloody singing without a huge amount of help. The joy of an intimate venue is that you can see everything that's going on.

I'm not keen on what looked like a ventriloquist pop act at times, her voice beamed from a machine and actually ‘live’ for me is the tweaks and changes made to album tracks, the odd imperfection or missing a note gives it that live feeling I enjoy. If you want to just go and see Ultraista and dance around a bit, they deliver the goods just fine though, the sound was ‘perfect’.

So are they cheating? Godrich is a big producer man, he should know better, I’m assuming Thom Yorke didn’t mime at Radiohead gigs. And why have they been cancelling so many shows? Let’s speculate. Maybe she’s saving her voice for a BBC session, maybe she had a cold, maybe she can’t sing, and maybe she’s not even real, or Godrich or even Radiohead?

Now we were right at the front so maybe more bands than we realise are doing this but I’m not so sure. Just a few weeks back Lauren Mayberry was singing with Chrvches, it was imperfectly good, Jonna Lee of iamamiwhoami slipped up once in her show but that one is by far the best performance I’ve seen, Katie Stelmanis belts out the tunes with Austra live.

I’m in two minds as to whether I want to see Ultraista again with the vain hope that it was just that one night due to some venue or technical ‘issue’.  Or maybe they were just tired after touring so much. Whatever the reason, I don’t think it’s too much to expect a live gig to be ‘live’, at least the vocals please.

We got some fabulous photographs though; she’s a great frontwoman with lots of kooky presence, if only she was brave enough, or whoever pulls her strings was brave enough, to let her sing unaided on the night.

Best tunes:

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