Gig review: Ellie Goulding - Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Wednesday 09 October 2013
"Sometimes I don't talk at all (on stage), I feel so nervous," confesses Herefordshire-born 26-year-old Ellie Goulding to the tiered hall packed with eager listeners, "but I like you guys."
For a woman whose career is fast taking her down the lane marked "bad-ass electro-pop diva", such heart-to-hearts aren't exactly in keeping with the pneumatic EDM-flavoured bump 'n' grind being cultivated on her most recent releases.
Yet there's nothing wrong with a female artist whose stagecraft is under - rather than over -sexualised, and to note that the undoubtedly pretty blonde makes silver-sequinned shorts and a white cropped T-shirt look comfortable rather than ravishing only endears her live persona all the more.
Yet nor is this a show steeped in girl-next-door innocence, and a sense of merciless pop construction rather than easy-going spontaneity hangs in the air in places. Perhaps her finest moments are near the beginning, with the bright and uplifting "Starry Eyed", and right at the end of the main set with the euphoric and relatively sophisticated "Lights". It felt like all bases were touched in between, certainly any which might see Goulding invited to appear (again) as the guest performer on the X-Factor.
There's winsome acoustic guitar strumming and solo piano balladry with "Guns & Horses" and "I Know You Care" (the latter track "about my dad"); proto-symphonic power balladry cooked up by the black-clad team of three keyboard players, three backing singers and a drummer behind her in "Joy"; and a hand-waving burst of sugar rush positivity near the end in "Anything Could Happen". Each is at once chosen from a familiar pic 'n' mix of unthreatening popular styles, but lifted by the sheer quality of Goulding's voice and the strong arrangements around it.
In places the attempt to array Goulding alongside the establishment of classic British singer-songwriters is resoundingly obvious - "I'm so lucky that the person who wrote this song likes it and is a fan of me, otherwise it would feel a bit weird," she gushed before a faithful take on Elton John's "Your Song", the song she privately performed at the Royal Wedding in 2011.
In others her willingness to disappear into an almost jarringly commercial zone of arena-ready, trance-infused dance – the Calvin Harris-produced "I Need Your Love" and her recent number one "Burn" rattling the balconies the most with their bass – is the mark of an artist who manages to be staidly the same and refreshingly different in the space of one perfectly delivered breath to the next.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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