First Night: Goldfrapp, Union Chapel, London

Chameleon keeps the chapel-goers in thrall
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The Independent Culture

So it's off with the animal outfits and glam-rock gregariousness, and on with the Wicker Man wardrobe and wistful, introspective folk. With their new album Seventh Tree, Alison Goldfrapp and songwriting partner Will Gregory have dummied the lot of us and hared off in an unexpected direction. So far, nobody is complaining.

But while this summery surrealism is all very well on a record, it's also going to have a transformative effect on Goldfrapp's live shows. At the Union Chapel, probably central London's most pastoral venue, they don't take out the pews for anyone – you have to sit down. Sure enough "Number One", the one real booty-shaker the band plays, is an odd fit in an otherwise stately set.

Perhaps the band have calculated that their fans are getting older, just like them, and will soon be spending their time at more dinner parties than discos. Yet, in performance, the album's less attention-grabbing tracks come to life. In fact, they're eerie enough to give you the butterflies and put you right off your dinner.

The substantial live band emerge in white druidic robes. A harpist, a string section and an acoustic guitar, each integral to the Seventh Tree sound, have been added.

Goldfrapp herself hides behind a flock of Farrah Fawcett curls, wearing what looks as if it might have once been Ms Fawcett's pink nightie. She is chameleonic: her voice is all breathy and inscrutable one moment, a shattering scream the next. It's a shame she ever breaks the spell with the odd bout of frankly awful stage banter.

The show opens with "Paper Bag", from the band's debut LP Felt Mountain, containing a melodica riff that sounds like a skewed take on the theme from Last Of The Summer Wine. New single "A&E" is a radio-friendly showstopper and probably Goldfrapp's most commercial recording to date. "Utopia", also from Felt Mountain, starts with a terrifying falsetto screech, and ends like the soundtrack to one of those Westerns where the good guy comes a cropper. The centrepiece of the night is "Little Bird", segueing from Goldfrapp's deep, warm chant of "July-ly-ly" into swirling, Strawberry Fields-psychedelia, with a bit of echoing Hendrix guitar thrown in for good measure. "Caravan Girl" is a rollicking ride into the sunset.

For an encore, "Some People", with its swelling strings, makes a spine-tingling finale: "Some people will/ask how old I am." Alison Goldfrapp's age is a closely-guarded secret. But the music she is making is as old as the hills – and as fresh as daisies.

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