Goldfrapp, Mencap Little Noise Sessions, St John at Hackney Church, London (3/5)


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The Independent Culture

Goldfrapp’s Little Noise set was always going to be a religious experience - performed on an altar, perfumed with incense and presided over by the vicar of St John’s Hackney, who is up by the organ enjoying the show and the view.

Alison Goldfrapp looks unusually demure in a simple black dress with spectacular puffed sleeves, lending her the sweetness of a Disney princess and the presence of a wicked queen. The other band members are a little more theatrical, each wearing an alarmingly realistic set of stag’s antlers. The fancy dress, and the arrival of an orchestra suggest the audience is about to see something dramatic, but although there is the odd flash of the frenetic the performance is quite static.

The first song on the set list is ‘Paper Bag’, and Goldfrapp’s vocal is at its lush and breathy best. It might be the violins or the spiritual setting but the song has a subdued, stately grace. The diction is lost in places, possibly owing to the acoustics but that has its benefits. No-one can get upset about hearing the four letter word of the first line in a church as the audience can’t be certain that it has been sung.

Everything feels melodic and gorgeously vague but oddly still until the band moves onto ‘A&E’ and Goldfrapp starts to move. Her dancing is pretty controlled - it’s the Easyjet version of a Kate Bush helicopter spin - but it’s enough to get the crowd dancing, whooping and singing along. A few songs later everything is slowed back down for ‘Eat Yourself’, which sounds beautiful but blurred. The melody is buried within all the sounds surrounding it. A new song ‘Melancholy Sky’ is executed in the same way. The brass section is fun but it doesn’t feel strong enough to stand out against all the songs that have come before it.

However, the band makes up for it with ‘Happiness’ which sounds joyfully hymnal, followed by what is described as a “hillbilly version” of ‘Ooh La La’, which is so smoky and sinister that it would make a perfect potential cover for Lana Del Rey although the music seems damp without the disco abandon of the original. ‘Black Cherry’ smoulders but never quite delivers - the band sound like they’re on the brink of a climax which is eluding them and escaping the audience. Redemption comes with the conclusion to the 15 song set, ‘Caravan Girl’, which sounds like sunshine on a cold November night and warms a chilly audience enough to generate enthusiastic applause.