Ladytron plays it cool at first L.A. show in seven years

Ladytron at the Fonda Theatre
Ladytron at the Fonda Theatre

Most of modern electronic dance music thrives on bombast. Ladytron has prevailed for almost two decades on songs and sheer cool.

The U.K.-based quartet played those to the hilt on Thursday night at the Fonda Theatre, their first U.S. show after ending a seven-year hiatus with the release of the new album “Ladytron” two weeks ago. Only their fifth show since getting back together (three in England in November, one in Mexico City earlier this week), Thursday’s was a slightly uneven but strong-finishing affair played to a near-capacity room of longtime faithful. Ladytron plays the sold-out Fonda again tonight before trekking to San Diego to perform at this weekend’s CRSSD Fest.

Fans welcomed the quartet — Helen Marnie, Mira Aroyo, Reuben Wu and Daniel Hunt, assisted by two additional players — with hearty cheers, even if the band they had come to see couldn’t really be seen. Ladytron pulsed through 90 minutes of music in virtual darkness, lit only by occasional strobes and stray light from the arty projections that backed them. It was audiovisual cool more suited to an underground venue in Europe than a spacious theater in Hollywood.

That air of mystery introduced itself early, when the show began with the Aroyo-led “Black Cat,” one of two tracks on the 2008 album “Velocifero” that are sung in Bulgarian. Of the first nine songs in the show, four were from the new album and three from “Velocifero.” The latter’s singles “Ghosts”and “Runaway” got the crowd in the groove even as Marnie’s vocals seem overly bright and forward in the mix.

Marnie did pause to marvel, “I can’t believe it’s been seven, eight years since we’ve been here.”

The second half of the main set was highlighted by the nervous urgency of the new song “You’ve Changed,” not out of place at all among two favorites, “International Dateline” (2005) and “Discotraxx” (2001).

With strobes strafing the Fonda, Ladytron finished with “Playgirl” (2001), “Seventeen” (2002) and “Destroy Everything You Touch” (2005), effectively connecting the dots between last decade and this, and reinforcing the notion that Ladytron remains in a league (a very small one) of its own.

Setlist: Black Cat, The Island, Ghosts, Soft Power, The Animals, Paper Highways, Deadzone, Runaway, Far From Home, Fighting in Built Up Areas, International Dateline, You’ve Changed, White Elephant, Discotraxx. Encore: White Gold, Playgirl, Seventeen, Destroy Everything You Touch