We are greeted by beautifully stark, monochromatic visuals – the band are dressed entirely in black, the set drop is simple, textured noir brushstrokes, and then the stage drops into darkness, lit only by single brilliant white spotlights on individual performers. Such striking visuals are exact metaphors for this initial section of Goldfrapp’s set – where the band offer enchanting sounds that are an education in subdued, calm simplicity. Pure vocals are accompanied by delicate acoustic guitars and ethereal ambient sounds, percolating in a way that is utterly captivating.
As the show progresses, more diverse timbres enter the play – violins, Spanish and electric guitars, a handsome double bass and mandolin, along with a modest collection of drums and a whole host of synths. With these added elements, further tracks become rich tapestries of sound, interwoven and perfectly balanced, with each timbre complementing each other seamlessly to create an enchanted and incredibly sophisticate wall of sound.
From here the performance develops in waves, dipping between quieter, more sombre tracks to those that whack considerable power and dynamism. This fiercer edge swells as we progress through the bowels of the set, moving from the darker, cooler, more brooding sounds more closely associated with Goldfrapp’s later work toward the glam-rock synth pop inspired back catalogue. This is a good move – the set develops perfectly, a crescendo of noise and visuals, with the simple pared down lighting being gradually replaced with an ever more complex light show filled with colour and movement. The shift in atmosphere is also a crowd pleaser – encompassing your full body of work in a performance is always a positive, non-conceited action, and as a result the set feels balanced and whole. Mixing the wafer thin softness of new tracks such as Annabel with the electronic drama of Ride a White Horse and Strict Machine shouldn’t work, but with this expertly execute set list the performance not only works, but utterly excels.
Aside from the perfectly orchestrated set list, the clear focus of the show is that voice, perfect as it is in its idiosyncrasy. Alison Goldfrapp’s rasping, refined voice penetrates the very soul, sounding so rich and womanly, yet gorgeously girlish in the same breath is in a word charismatic.
The rest of the band is majestically good, however. Beautiful, heart-wrenchingly perfect violins combine with some of the most sophisticated synth work I have ever seen – intelligently selected and masterfully layers as they are. Dynamic yet delicate drums are skilfully complex or sparse as needed, but it is the bass that has won my heart this evening – being as it is stupendously rich, as deep and thrilling as thunder.
This critically acclaimed show in support of Goldfrapp’s sixth studio album ‘Tales of Us’ is an education in professional stagemanship. Every track, every break, every visual is devised and considered to create an untouchable achievement in sonic beauty. My eyes and ears greedily absorbed every second these masters of synth-pop had to offer.