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No-one forgets their first love. Musically or otherwise. Goldfrapp was mine. Around five or so years ago, I bought their Supernature album on a whim and I’ve never looked back. I’ve purchased all of their albums and gotten to know them inside-out, waiting patiently for the day I could see them live. Last year, their latest album (and primary factor in the reason for their tour) was the critically acclaimed Tales of Us, a sumptuous feast of beautiful imagery and gentle soundscapes, far removed from the up-tempo tunes that first drew me to them, but just as wonderful.
Performing live at the Lowry, Salford on March 27th, Goldfrapp presented a set as eclectic and varied as their own discography. Alison began with a cluster of songs from the new album; starting (just as the album does) with ‘Jo’, followed swiftly by ‘Drew’, ‘Stranger’, ‘Alvar’, ‘Annabel’ and ‘Clay’. Each one is an audible treat; combining the hauntingly melancholic strings with Alison’s incredible vocal prowess. Live, however, they didn’t come across quite so well. Songs this quiet and intimate just seemed too loud being reverberated around the vast emporium of The Lowry’s lyric theatre. That’s not to say it was a disappointing start however. One thing this set-up did was highlight the true genius behind Will Gregory’s compositions (he writes the melodies while Alison Goldfrapp is the singer and lyricist.) The string solo in ‘Drew’, performed live on the violin, was one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard.
It’s undeniable that the show got better as it went along. Even the Tales-themed beginning ended with the simply gorgeous ‘Clay’, Alison definitely having relaxed at this point and fully let loose on the choruses. After ‘Clay’ came ‘Yellow Halo’, a lesser known song from their singles collection. The song, written by Alison for her recently deceased mother, worked wonderfully as a transition from their new material to their old, and Alison was visibly moved by the end of the song, seemingly wiping a tear away at the song’s conclusion. ‘Little Bird’, from their 2008 folky album Seventh Tree, was next and for me was a surprising high-point of the evening – a psychedelic combination of rainbow lights filling the room, coupled with an extended outro from the band which brought new life to a song I’ve always considered as so-so. ‘You Never Know’ came next (a personal favourite), followed by ‘Ride a White Horse’ and ‘Thea’, leading up to a show-stopping final performance of ‘Train’: The extended intro’s beat pounded through the room and eventually got the audience up on their feet, Alison herself moving about the stage more than she had up to that point.
After a brief break, Goldfrapp returned for their encore, starting with ‘Utopia’ – a song from their 2000 debut album Felt Mountain, with operatic highs which Alison had seemingly no difficulty in hitting, almost fifteen years on. As a whole, in fact, Alison was pitch perfect; and at times her voice was so powerful that the microphone seemed somewhat unnecessary. ‘Clowns’ and ‘Lovely Head’ both followed and were met with much delight from the audience, and the final song of the night was ‘Strict Machine’, one of their bigger hits and without a doubt one of their danciest. Its thumping beat and sexually fired performance from the singer were the perfect end to the night, and everyone was up on their feet once more as Alison told us we were all gorgeous and the band took their final leave.
As a whole, you might say this was a concert of two halves – for better or for worse. Tales of Us is one of their greatest albums, and by far their most lyrically mature, but the most crowd pleasing songs were those old favourites with the big beats. In fact the way the concert was structured perhaps suggested that Goldfrapp almost wanted to get the latest stuff out of the way. Alison, though not a huge talker (she said little other than ‘thank you’ after each song), is by nature a wonderful performer so that is perhaps a factor in why those more electronic songs came across better. Despite the slightly slow-start, it was without a doubt the best concert I have ever been to. No-one forgets their first love. And after watching Goldfrapp that night, I can say with 100% certainty that I never will.