Goldfrapp @ Birmingham Symphony Hall – 26th March 2014


We Were Evergreen are a Parisian three piece who have relocated to the UK and supported the likes of Michael Kiwanuka and Ed Sheeran. For a trio, they utilise a vast number of instruments and loop pedals to create their sound which The Guardian describe as “maddeningly pleasant and obscenely nice”. Throughout their set, they demonstrate the skills as musicians seamlessly moving between instruments however, this creates a busy and slightly chaotic atmosphere on stage which becomes tiring to watch. This constant instrument swapping also posed problems as Michael Liot’s vocals often get lost in the mix and therefore the melody is swamped by the melee. The final song of the set concludes with all three members playing rhythms on the drums that are reminiscent of The Goodmen’s early ‘90’s hit Give It Up which, personally, was the best part of their performance. We Were Evergreen are too nice and pleasant for me, but I am definitely in the minority and they are received with enthusiasm and comments such as “the best support act I have ever seen”.

After a short interval, the lights go down and the beginning of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf is played explaining the various melodies connected with the different characters of the story finishing with the infamous line “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.” At this point, Goldfrapp take to the stage, all dressed in black and shrouded in white beams of light. They commence with Jo, taken from their latest album, Tales Of Us, and determine the tone for the first part of the event. The various musicians create an incredible atmosphere using soundscapes and samples, whilst Alison Goldfrapp’s voice resounds effortlessly throughout the venue utilising Symphony Hall’s globally renowned acoustics to the maximum. This is the first night of the tour and you can tell that sound issues are being worked out with Alison making distinct gestures regarding volumes. Furthermore, she honestly shares how nervous she is with the audience, but, from the sound that she is producing, she need not be. The set proceeds in this vein with the likes of Drew, Stranger and Annabel, however, with the start of Clay the sombre white lighting changes to red and you sense that the set is beginning to change particularly as the song develops. The background lights tend to symbolise the gathering pace of the set seeing Little Bird burst into a blinding display of rainbow lights showering the stage as the music swells.

You Never Know stamps its authority on the venue with stomping samples battling with Alison’s ridiculously high vocal range shaking off the previous calm and thoughtful ambience. The glam rock disco sound that Goldfrapp are most well-known for is unleashed with the explosive Number 1, which sees Alison strut around the stage and generate poses, clearly having lost the earlier nervousness. This burst of energy and active encouragement sees the majority of the audience up and dancing but unfortunately restrained by the seating arrangement of the venue.

After a brief lull in tempo, the crowd are uplifted with the start of Ride A White Horse which has to be stopped due to an issue with the samples that Alison is quick to point out is not her fault, but on its restart has the whole of the audience onside embracing the disco beat. The final song of the main set is the catchy Ooh La La which is disco pop at its finest and is impossible not to move to the groove whilst Alison’s sultry vocals seduce you. The band exit the stage hastily which suggests there is more to come, unfortunately, this break in the proceedings means that the momentum that they have initiated, temporarily dips especially with their returning song being Clowns. One of Goldfrapp’s earliest singles, Utopia, demonstrates Alison’s range of vocals in its fullest reaching ludicrously high operatic notes with ease whilst the Shirley Bassey and Sergio Leone inspired Lovely Head sees Alison distort her voice in the chorus to produce a witch like sound in contrast to the smoothness of the verse.

The final songs of the night return to the upbeat tempo sparked of earlier with sexy pounding of Train and the grinding power of Strict Machine, both of which command movement whilst strobes and blinding lights fly around the stage as Ms Goldfrapp’s petite demeanour holds strong modelesque poses. This grandiose finale is an intense visual and aural display in direct contrast to the earlier elements of the show and is welcomed with rapturous applause. Goldfrapp have effectively proven their musical skill and diversity and producing such a varied set, the only drawback is that the venue was suitable for the first half of the set but when the band played the upbeat numbers both the audience and the performers were restricted by the seats and inability to approach the stage or dance in the aisles.

Review – Toni Woodward

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