Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Goldfrapp at the Hammersmith Apollo

Alison Goldfrapp is dressed as a bird. Big Bird, to be precise. After he's been rescued from an oil slick and rolled in a bed of glitter.

Who would do such a thing? Well, I gave you a clue earlier. It's Alison Goldfrapp. Do try to pay attention.

The enigmatic frontwoman makes a convincing bird of prey. She swoops and soars around the stage, her voice fluttering like a nightingale over the humming-bird buzz of her trademark synthpop. It's definitely a performance to Crow about, Owl have you know [that's quite enough of the bird puns - Avian Ed].

Kicking off with the experimental acapella Voicething, the set largely concentrates on this year's upbeat, 80s-referencing Head First album. All but one of the tracks (the elegantly dreamy Hunt) gets an airing, setting the tone for a run-through of Goldfrapp's biggest, foot-stompingest electro hits. So we get Ooh La La, Ride A White Horse and Train, but sadly no A&E or Utopia.

In fact, the only reference to the more ambient or sombre entries in Goldfrapp's back catalogue (the Frappalogue?) are held until for the encore, when Little Bird and Lovely Head get an airing. Scheduling the latter at the end of the show is a brave move. It requires some of the night's most athletic vocal somersaults, as Alison steps to a secondary mic stand and bellows a distorted, operatic soprano with all her might. Astonishing doesn't even begin to describe it.

It's almost a cliché to praise Alison's vocals after all these years, but it has to be said: She is the most fearless, accomplished pop vocalist of our generation. And quite possibly the next. Mrsdiscopop later remarked that the opening numbers were so note-perfect that she started watching, eagle-eyed [I said stop it - Avian Ed] for signs of lip-syncing.

I see her point, and not just because she's my wife and I have to. There was, at times, the eerie sense of watching a pre-recorded TV performance. When the gig really came alive, it was because the band deviated from the template. A squealing violin solo at the end of Dreaming threatened to blow the speakers, while the extended coda to Train was so heavy on the bass I thought my throat would collapse.

By the encore, Alison had ditched the feathers in favour of a black and white harlequin catsuit, covered by a full-length lace contraption that appeared to be a ruff made for a giant. This was, in turn, replaced with a tassled black affair for Strict Machine, allowing the singer to strut around the stage like the world's most flamboyant majorette. The rest of us followed suit, and then we flew away into the cloudy night sky. Probably.

Intro - Voicething
Crystalline Green
You Never Know
I Wanna Life
Head First
Number 1
Shiny & Warm
Ride a White Horse
Ooh La La

Black Cherry
Little Bird
Lovely Head
Strict Machine

PS: Photos 2&3 were taken by @Noeby who quite rightly points out that Goldfrapp "left scorch marks on the stage"

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