The long-awaited, electrifying and innovative live show of UK’s Ladytron finally returned to Los Angeles. Ladytron performed at Belasco Theater after their summer stop at the alt-rock “Just Like Heaven” 2023 festival. Historically still standing from LA’s silent era movie theater district, The Belasco has become the best tour stop in housing top acts in an intimate and impressive venue with plush styled lounges and an exquisite live sound. Live acts thrive here and Ladytron would prove themselves and pay tribute to that “Silent Era” history by producing an electrifying tech sound at its purest.
The band’s current tour is the first in four year after a decade long hiatus. But the band hardly stood still and were busier than ever with production collaborations from Brian Eno to Christina Aguilera. Remixes were produced for a long list of artists such as Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, Goldfrapp and Nine Inch Nails. Ladytron saw themselves with personal efforts outside of the band’s orb with singers Helen Marnie completing two solo LPs, and Mira Aroyo producing music, as well as some documentary filmmaking. The ladies’ co-conspirators/founding members Daniel Hunt and Ruben Wu are DJs and producers from Liverpool. Daniel Hunt with his expertise in electronica went on to score several movies and started the band Tamois in Brazil. Somewhere in this busy new century the band even found time to open two music venues.
In past tours, Ladytron has seen various live band lineups with on and off rotations of drums and bass guitar. On this tour we got collaborating Ladytron drummer Billy Brown, interjecting and fusing bold, complex dance groves within the Ladytron electro-music sound. Rather than involve a repetitive drum machine on tour, Brown’s percussive blend within the Ladytron line up is a perfect addition to mesh the band’s digital orchestration with a human driving analog beat by Brown’s big Swiss timing perfection. Brown certainly added to the band’s stage power. Hopefully this conceptual stage lineup remains intact. This brave combination of instrumentation is rarely achieved with today’s bands. Sadly, missing in the current traditional line up for the first time is founding member and synth-brain Ruben Wu. He reluctantly concluded that he was unable to continue with a demanding rock tour lifestyle after establishing a successful career in the visual arts on the opposite side of the planet.
Hitting near the 25yr mark as a prominent act from late 90’s/early 2000’s electronica era, this night revealed what has evolved within Ladytron’s dedication to music tech culture. Appropriately, Ladytron kicked off this anticipated show with their homage to Los Angeles with the dazzling rapture of “City of Angels”- a song that paints the “city of dreams” existing within a duality of alluring charm, yet wrapped in a complex landscape of the wonderful unknown. This anthem’s supreme tonality is what Ladytron would bring us all night long- upbeat tension and artful techno magic that triaged the evening’s dive into the band’s expansive catalog. “City Of Angels” is the single off Time’s Arrow, the band’s latest sweeping escape into electronic ambience that proves Ladytron is still capable 0f electrifying fans with new music. The night defined a band that eluded the trap of the industry’s helix of trends or record label ruled formulas by remaining truthful to themselves and their art. The music is sophisticated, with years of dedicating, discovering and constructing this craft. Yet they stuck with the sound design they invented while innovating synth goth-pop. The result is lush soundscapes and groove heavy electro music that not only shines with their dramatic production but explodes onstage- a feat that is ever challenging for any live electronic act.
While most acts amongst their peers face challenges in interpreting complex studio work on the live stage, Ladytron actually appear to be in their comfort zone on this night by boldly and successfully conveying their album’s wall of sonic grandeur and depth. The Belasco’s Spanish Renaissance and Moorish architectural atmosphere produces reverberations from Layton’s crystalline wall of sound from the mystifying and now classic, “Ghosts” from ’08’s goth enchanting Velocifero record. Wrapped in a chic, Audrey Hepburn dark goth cocktail dress, singer Helen Marnie is dreamy and note perfect tonight weaving through “Ghosts” beating, groovy stomp. Entranced and taken over by her own music, Helen twirled and spun and got lost within the rapture of the possessive beat. The crowd ate it up, being taken over by this moment and let the band know of their dedicated passion with deafening applause, indicating that even without any major media airplay anywhere, Ladytron is embraced by their cult of loving followers. Out from darkness, the venue’s fanatic embrace towards co-lead vocal, singer Mira Aroyo, wasn’t forgotten once she took center stage with her exotically edgy lead with “True Mathematics”, a Krautrock inspired, digitally toned track delivered with Mira’s trippy, deadpan rap sung in her native Bulgarian.
Ladytron’s design of electro sweeps and flurries continued with Mira’s echoed vocals on the enchanting “Flight From Angkor”, which was showered with the show’s imaginative visuals, wrapped the band in surreal projected light of animated digital landscapes (probably designed by Wu?).
Helen was all joy as she sent warm compliments to engaging fans for being back in Los Angeles with her new tribute track, “California”. As distracting as it may be, it’s a compliment to any band when the cell phones fly out, as the encore concluded with, “Seventeen” their defacto anthem which reflects society’s view on a girl’s transition into womanhood, as the song coldly states, “when you’re 21, you’re no fun”. From the classic LP, “Witching Hour”, Ladytron’s magnetic performance wrapped up with their signature opus from the classic “Destroy Everything You Touch”. With it’s mystical goth-pop sound, the band transmitted the high of coming back to Los Angeles.
Opening the night’s concert was an electro-vet in her own right was DANZ CM. Originally out of upstate New York Danielle “DANZ” Johnson does her solo act as a synth music artist yet wearing many creative hats. Having outgrown her artist beginnings named as “Computer Magic”, Danielle had shed her past and stage name transformed into, “DANZ CM”. The 34yr old is already on her fourth self produced record and also remarkably founded Channel 9 Records and media brand Synth History that embraces all topics in synth tech and techno music. The night featured Danielle’s interestingly strict, devoted and well researched use of huge vintage analog synthesizers- Prophet, Moog, and Roland. The enormity of it all onstage is a perplexing surprise to an audience who now exists in a nano world.
The sight was amazing to see Danielle surrounded onstage by the monstrous real-deal collection of synthesizers rather than a single laptop computer most would have done in today’s world of immediacy. Her performance also included how she managed it all, finding her way through keyboards, endless patch cables, and units- Mr. Moog would be impressed and proud. Despite the visual and sonic complications, the effort explained the complexity and songwriting strength she possesses. A virtuoso in her genre, the songs are there, and it’s incredible to believe she is self-taught with such taste and ability.
It was a magical and long anticipated night and speaking for myself, Ladytron exceeded any expectation. That in itself is rare for most bands that are reuniting for a massive tour.
Words and Photos: Tony Molina