There's a new form of manual communication on the horizon. Forget the "can I have the bill?" or myriad forms of swearing. This one's relevant to your modern-day pop princess and is called "the wide-eyed ingenue". You start with your fingers pinched together then quickly open them, as if mimicking blinking, like an ingenue landing at a debutantes' ball and being amazed at the assembled glamour. If this is a trend, then Elena Jane Goulding is the trend-setter, for she uses these hand movements to accompany both the video and live version of "Starry Eyed", her second single, released next month. It follows her debut "Under the Sheets", which brought her to mainstream attention last year; her album, Lights, is due in March. Brit nominations and BBC poll-topping are already history. She exudes polish on-stage, presumably aided by support slots touring with Little Boots last autumn.
Goulding makes up this year's vanguard of electro-pop princesses alongside Marina Diamandis, though avoids the latter's obvious overtones of Kate Bush. She brings a love of obscure folk to the electronica-obsessed work of Starsmith, her producer, who, like her, is just 22. Much of her work has been recorded in the latter's bedroom, though these days most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between that and a mega-bucks recording studio.
The gig is packed, an older crowd than one might have been led to believe from the tickets, which stipulated that no under-14s were allowed; presumably the audience is bolstered by industry types congratulating themselves on a job sewn up before it's even begun. In fairness, tonight Ellie is suffering from laryngitis, and pulls off an impressive, albeit curtailed, performance sourced from the forthcoming release.
Live, the spangly Starsmith-induced production makes way for something more spartan, though still, thankfully, catchy. Ellie can hold a note, lacks any obvious irritating tics, and her image has been bolstered by a series of understated interviews since her Brit Award nomination.
Tonight's highlights include the two singles and a cover of men-of-the-moment Midlake's "Roscoe", along with opener "Guns and Horses". It's too early to say whether Ellie is here to stay; but with this maturity and attitude, one might stick one's hands together and pray that her March release doesn't fall short.