She’s popular, our Ellie. When I arrive to interview her, before six, there are people hanging around in the pissy alley at the back of The Cockpit. When I leave they are still there. “We’re waiting to see Ellie”, they tell me. “do you know if she’s coming out?” There’s a queue outside the front door an hour before opening and I’m wondering if I’m in for a big night.
Being this year’s big thing, an act that has been pushed very hard by her record company, it is, of course, backlash time…..
But, being the lovely people that we are at Vanguard Towers, we’re here to try something new and why bother if you’re not going to give it a chance? Ellie takes the stage confidently and takes on the look of someone older when she sings, absorbed as she is. She’s down with the teens though – sporting the de-rigeur denim shorts over black leggings, topped by a clever T-shirt that looks like a backless dress. Her hair is fabulous and similar styles can be seen on teen girls across the country already. Her voice is the remarkable thing – a vulnerable tool, it could be affecting, were it not subject to a strange, electronic, warble that she swears is natural. What isn’t natural is the sampled backing vocals – it gets weirdly disconcerting when her voice continues when she’s away from the mic. It adds a note of fakeness that just isn’t needed. It’s a live performance – you don’t need to reproduce the record. The sound relies heavily on the bass drum and doesn’t favour the lyrics she’s so proud of.
She has developed a strong presence and points her finger frequently for emphasis and gets dramatic effect from beating the drum by her side, particularly in Under The Sheets, where it brings on a case of the dancing wiggles. Her acoustic guitar is pretty much reduced to status of prop by the bass drum and less well-known songs, like next single, Every Time You Go, have to subsist on sound, rather than content. This Love suggests a weltschmerz unusual in someone her age. It’s not till the encore that we hear her solo acoustic (Wish I’d Stayed), without the plainly standard backing band and I guess this is the raw material she starts with. It’s not naturally groovy – more a standard pop jangle, highlighting the shaping that the label has added to hit the big time. Her stagecraft is strong and she chats, making friendly fey greetings to the back of the talky crowd before a Midlake cover (Roscoe) and the inevitable Starry Eyed – which sends the crowd into predictable raptures. In this post-modern age, it’s been a while since I’ve seen someone actually save the hit till last.
Sadly, it’s been the evening I expected but not the one I hoped for. Ellie Goulding has been helped to shape up for the hits and the cost is producing a standard product. She would have stood out with original material, delivered otherwise, but would she have sold enough to do a headline tour? You know the answer.