According to Spotify artists related to Goldfrapp include Zero 7, Morcheeba, Sneaker Pimps and Moloko. Thankfully throughout their sell out gig at the O2 Academy Goldfrapp showed more invention, dynamism and energy than any of the aforesaid purveyors of the tedious beats, soporific grooves and unerring boredom electronica, which sound-tracked way too many women-in-wine-bars-trying-to-have-it-all-whilst-men-are-all-bastards-or-buffoons TV series during the early noughties.
A rumbling, pulsing, minimal beat which reverberated throughout the entire smoke filled the venue heralded the bands entrance. And a real, full band they were, drums, bass, keyboards and two keytar and keyboards players flanking the ever charismatic Alison Goldfrapp, bathed and backlit in indigo light. The dirty beats built to a near industrial sound, which was prevented from straying into the uncomfortable by a wash of sweeping, melodic synth, and sweet and clear vocals.
It took Goldfrapp a short time to really get going, the second song I Can’t Wait from new album Silver Eye was good but not outstanding, an Air-like dance infused tune and a mannered delivery were less compelling than hoped and it was clear that the crowd were waiting for one of their hits. And then they got a hit, the familiar intro to Train cranked into gear, the crowd began to dance and the band seemed to grow in assurance, sometimes playing one of your bangers early in the set is a good idea.
Ocean also from Silver Eye followed seamlessly and was their standout new track, a dreamy, Kraftwerkian keyboard melody, swooning vocals and then smashing into an epic, dramatic slab of electronica. From this point it was plain sailing for the band and the audience. Whether they were playing the big hits like Ooh La La and Ride A White Horse or lesser known tracks such as Become The One the crowd simply loved it and loved them. And that’s a pretty strange place to be at times, some of the songs you can imagine sound-tracking the Handmaids Tale or a film set in a neon lit, dystopian future and nobody really connects with each other, oh alright, Bladerunner.
There’s a sense of un-nameable desires and duplicity and a surface glitter which wouldn’t take much to rub off and expose the horrors and darkness below, whether that is social or psychological. Yet the bands fans continued to dance to it with the biggest cheer of the night and the most frenzied throwing of shapes to the classic Strict Machine which sounded as exciting as it did fourteen years ago.
Whilst the band may have seemed a little tentative initially Alison Goldfrapp, despite claiming that she felt nervous before the show, seemed preternaturally confident and in charge from the minute she walked onto the stage. She was a commanding, charismatic performer with a barely contained energy which demands attention from her audience. Although there is something distinctly Sally Bowles in Isherwood’s cabaret about her on-stage persona, she would not seem out of place in Weimar Berlin rather than a converted cinema in Bristol. It could be argued that she has been working the dominatrix schtick for a long time now but it is consistent with the subject matter and implied subject matter of many of Goldfrapp’s songs and errs on the side of archness enough for her to still get away with it. And by the end of the show she could have had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand, if she permitted it.