Goldfrapp, Union Chapel, London

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The Independent Culture

So it's off with the barnyard 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 her songwriting partner Will Gregory have dummied the lot of us and hared off in a completely unexpected direction. So far, nobody seems to be complaining.

This summary surrealism is 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 this evening, is an odd fit in a stately set.

The substantial live band emerge swathed in white robes like druidic disciples. While the instrumentation hints at the electronica that characterised Goldfrapp's last two albums, Black Cherry and Supernature, there's now a harpist, a string section and an acoustic guitar.

Goldfrapp herself hides behind a flock of Farrah Fawcett curls, wearing what looks like it might have once been Farrah Fawcett's pink nightie. She's chameleonic: her voice all breathy and inscrutable one moment, a shattering scream the next.

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 Goldfrapp's most commercial recording.

The church is decorated with the balloons referenced in Seventh Tree's first track, "Clowns", in which the duo signal their folkie intentions as many have done before them, by laying a Nick Drake reference on thick.

The centrepiece of the gig is "Little Bird", which segues from Goldfrapp's deep, warm chant of "July-ly-ly" into swirling, Strawberry Fields-psychedelia, with a bit of Hendrix guitar. "Caravan Girl" is a rollicking ride into the sunset.

The band sticks to the new material for their encore. "Some People", with its swelling strings, makes a spine-tingling finale: "Some people will /Ask how old I am." Alison Goldfrapp's real age is a closely guarded secret. The music she's making, meanwhile, is as old as the hills – and fresh as daisies.

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