First Night: Goldfrapp, Guildhall, Southampton

All the gravitas of a Holiday on Ice extravaganza
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The Independent Culture

Of all the hip-hop style bands of the Nineties, it seems surprising that Goldfrapp have had the biggest mainstream success. Portishead seemed to implode after their second album, and Lamb never managed to capture a wider audience, possibly because their sound remained incomprehensively left field - not a good thing when you're trying to sell major units in Tesco's.

This is not a problem that Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have had to endure. Even their Mercury Music nominated debut album, Felt Mountain, was more pastoral than subversive, Goldfrapp's dreamy vocals washing over a variety of luscious string-laden backdrops.

But the one thing that Goldfrapp possess is the ability to adapt to their surroundings. They are the chameleons of dance music, with an uncanny knack of producing great pop tunes. Combined with Alison Goldfrapp's carefully crafted sexy image, and her penchant for Animism, theatrics, and glitter, it's an enduring concoction that made both Black Cherry and Supernature such huge money-spinners. The fact that their T-mobile backed hit "Ooh La La" outglammed Marc Bolan in his infectious Seventies campness proves that Goldfrapp have more in common with Madonna than Massive Attack these days. Now on the second leg of their Supernature tour, one wonders what new stage theatrics they will bring to the table. The answer is very little. Gone are the regular performance art collective, and in their place a simple white backdrop.

With additional drums, bass, guitar, violin, and omnipresent synth, Alison Goldfrapp launches her operatic vocals into the Sixties noir pastiche of "Felt Mountain". Pink top billowing dramatically, blond hair blown permanently backwards in a light tailwind, "Never Mind" is a performance of Kate Bush proportions. The hypnotic hip-gyrating groove of "Train" is a crowd-pleaser and her hair is flailing even more dramatically. It feels increasing like being part of an MTV video shoot with Goldfrapp swinging seductively and her band making all the right poses in an admirably dramatic fashion. "Supernature" is served well by the ground-throbbing pulse of "Koko" and "Slide In". "Lovely Head" was always a majestically haunting track, and proves the down-tempo highlight of the evening. "Fly Me Away" is delivered without any frills: a straight up pop master class. "Ride a White Horse" is another thoroughbred, as is the anticipated song of the night, "Ooh La La".

Of course Goldfrapp's sensuality has all the gravitas of a Holiday on Ice show, but this does not in any way detract from the ingenuity of her compositions and is a well-crafted, well-realised performance. She finishes off the night with the last single, "Number 1", and the tracks "Strict Machine" and "Black Cherry" from the album of the same name. All three draw heavily from her current obsession with electro-pop and finished the night off with aplomb. The question remains as to where the band will go next and what direction Alison Goldfrapp will go.

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