Music review: Goldfrapp, Somerset House, London
Monday 22 July 2013
In a busy week for one of pop's most inscrutable female artists, Alison Goldfrapp has spellbound a converted church in Manchester before headlining London's hedonistic Lovebox weekender. This grand courtyard, though, feels like the perfect arena for a return that ranges widely from delicate acid folk to pulsing disco.
The singer dresses for the occasion in floaty black with a cape caught by a fan’s draft, as the duo she formed with rarely seen instrumentalist Will Gregory seeks to recover from the creative misstep of their last outing, 2010's overly clinical Head First. That was a rare wrong turn for a pair that had arguably inspired a swathe of idiosyncratic characters such as Florence Welch and Natasha Khan. Early reports suggest a swing back to the cinematic feel of their debut album Felt Mountain from a decade earlier.
If this is a critical moment for Alison and her five-piece group, they refuse to show it, beginning with airy pop and gentle reveries built around swooning violin and acoustic finger-picking. The still gauche performer’s vocals are strong and confident, halfway between breathy femininity and middle European froideur, a manner that suits a smattering of tasters from Tales Of Us, due in September. On this showing, Goldfrapp's sixth album is set to be their most diaphanous work to date, the most memorable moments tonight being the classical sweep of "Stranger" with its enigmatic reference to a “boy or girl” and the more urgent "Clay" based on a skittering rhythm.
As well as harking back to their debut, these tunes fit well with the shadowy pastorals of 2008’s Seventh Tree, the underselling album that led Goldfrapp's previous label to unwisely demand more accessible material. Now it provides some of this set’s highlights, the sweet and twisted love song "A&E" that owes much of its dramatic punch to Fleetwood Mac and a frankly beautiful "Little Bird". Yet Alison can still shift from quirky chanteuse to the dancefloor diva that gave Goldfrapp fame.
An impressive laser display weaves patterns on the opposite wall to mark a change in tone, underlined when band members don keytars to signify the party is finally starting. The stone slabs become a seething open-air nightclub to welcome the group’s more immediate tunes, led by the glam stomp of "Ooh La La" and the wonky synthpop of "Train".
They may find it a challenge touring their delicate new material, but Goldfrapp still put on a heck of a show.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 4 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Three million books were judged by their covers - this is what happened
Anne Hathaway is already being stung by Hollywood ageism, aged 32
No Escape, film review: Thriller generates plenty of excitement but soon collapses
The Lobster trailer: Colin Farrell has 45 days to find a lover or he'll be turned into an animal
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees