Going For Gold
Academy 1, Manchester
Wednesday November 17th, 2010
Some things are certain in life. If going to a British music festival, always pack sunglasses and waterproof trousers - just in case. Don't get your hopes up too much for the home nations during the football World Cup. And, most importantly, never turn down a last-minute invitation to a Goldfrapp gig.
Academy 1 is busy tonight, but not quite full. The show seems to be a popular hot date destination - the floor is littered with jovial couples of all ages awaiting the main event. Even a threat from a member of security staff at the entrance that anybody copped filming or photographing the gig will be ejected doesn't dampen the atmosphere. A quick scan of the merch stall reveals tea towels designed by Alison in amongst the usual T-shirts, posters and 'special tour edition' CDs.
Goldfrapp are at their finest when they're peddling aural filth. Listening to the band's songs from the Black Cherry and Supernature eras conjure up images of wind machines, filthy bass and slow-motion, clandestine four-in-the-morning trysts, and the good news is that the opening rendition of Crystalline Green looks just as you'd imagine it to in your head. Alison Goldfrapp, clad in a black-and-gold fringed poncho prowls around the stage, wild curly hair and poncho fringe blown all over the place by giant wind machines. The bass pumps out of the speakers and all of a sudden, it's party time at Academy 1.
The duo's most recent effort, Head First, is almost a little too sleek, and whilst tracks like Dreaming, Alive and the Mr Blue Sky-esque Shiny And Warm (it's the keyboard line, honest) go down well with the crowd, the pace of the show does drop off in the middle. A big round of applause should be given to the violinist, who, along with the inimitable Ms Goldfrapp, helps the casual observer retain a level of interest during these tamer numbers. The title track Head First and lead single Rocket are the best of the bunch.
Just as the set is dropping off, they pull out Train. The drummer thrashes the shit out of the bass drum pedal and Goldfrapp moves in perfect time with the music, her motions becoming more extravagant with each aural flourish. The show has finally comes alive again. From then onwards, it's hit after hit. Ride A White Horse may be lacking the horse-headed dancers who came on tour in 2005, but it's still the best song containing the word Winnebago that's ever been written. The baby-making music of Supernature also features, with Ooh La La provoking a modest crowd singalong and plenty of arms aloft at the front.
Returning for the encore in something that looks like a cross between an Elizabethan ruff and a paper fairy cake case, Goldfrapp delivers a spine-tingling version of Black Cherry and strips to a tasseled jacket and monochrome harlequin jumpsuit for the finale - Little Bird from 2008's gorgeous Seventh Tree, Lovely Head and, last but not least, Strict Machine. The last track is the one moment of sheer excellence - not that tonight hasn't been good, but the use of backing tracks has been somewhat restricting. Black Cherry's standout track deviates from its recorded form. Its electronic splendour packs us all off home to lie back and think of taking up the synths for a living.
words: Kate Goodacre