Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gig review: Goldfrapp

The last time Goldfrapp played live, their intro music was Cerrone's 10-minute disco odyssey Supernature. Last night at the Royal Festival Hall, it was Greensleeves.

Yes, Alison and Will have gone all pastoral, as further evidenced by their band's set-up, which included a harp, a 16-piece string ensemble and, by the end of the gig, six female choristers.

Dressed in white nightgowns (except Alison, in pink), the group concentrated mainly on the dreamy psychedelia of current album Seventh Tree and the more cinematic moments from debut release Felt Mountain. Utopia was an early highlight, with the string section lifting an already euphoric song into the stratosphere.

Similarly, You Never Know was particularly suited to the austere surroundings of the posh-nobs venue - with its staccato string stabs punching all the way to the back row like a fist in a velvet glove.

When they turned to the more upbeat numbers, though, Goldfrapp faltered. Bringing out the synths for the bouncy music-hall groove of Satin Chic, the sound balance was oddly uneven. The drums, in particular, sounded like they being played in a school practice room - making a band that's renowned for its perfectionist soundscapes seem a little amateurish.

Fittingly for the surroundings, it was mostly a sit-down concert. Until, that is, we got the opening strains of Number One. At which point a lone man in the upper balcony was so moved by pulsing bassline that he left his chair to dance wildly in the aisles, half-finished pint in hand. A steward predictably tried to get him to sit down but was met with a disapproving chorus of booing. Then five supporters got up to show solidarity in dance. Then ten, then fifteen... The steward retreated, defeated.

"Don't let them make you stop dancing," said a clearly delighted Goldfrapp as the song ended, before launching into electro glam disco stomper Strict Machine, ensuring even more feet on the floor. It was a great moment - and one that clearly touched the singer, who had expressed concern that the audience wasn't connecting with the music earlier in the show ("I can't see anyone, I'm not used to people sitting down," she complained)

The show drew to a close with two sonic experiments - Ooh La La as a hillbilly country song, which failed miserably, and a performance of Happiness with the entire audience humming along on kazoos, which was magnificent.

Despite a few minor mis-steps, then, it was a great gig. Alison Goldfrapp seems more comfortable as a frontwoman this time round, leading her band like a dreamy, ethereal pixie, rather than the sexualised disco vixen of the Supernature tour. And, with those sound issues sorted out, they're going to be an amazing experience under the stars at this summer's outdoor festivals.


Goldfrapp - Happiness (live, fan-made video)

Paper Bag
Cologne Cerrone Houdini
You Never Know
Road To Somewhere
Eat Yourself
Little Bird
Satin Chic
Number One
Strict Machine
Monster Love
Caravan Girl
Ooh La La (Hillbilly)
Happiness (Kazoo)
(via Goldfrapp messageboards - thanks)

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