Live review: Ellie Goulding @ the Fox Theatre
“Singer-electronic-er” is a clumsy riff on “singer-songwriter,” yet it’s a description that describes the folksy dubstep of Ellie Goulding. Occasionally playing an acoustic guitar and flanked by three lads, the British indie singer played an emptier-than-advertised sold out gig Saturday night at the Fox.
With more than a few adult chaperones keeping an eye on the scene, the crowd seemed to illustrate the youthful enthusiasm that Goulding belted from stage. Fans’ preshow chatter said that Goulding had been suffering from laryngitis during the last few shows, so I questioned her choice of opening song, “Under the Sheets.” Despite its energizing qualities, it put some strain on her vocal chords right out of the gate and sounded more whispered than the falsetto-stretching qualities of the record.
As the show progressed, Goulding found a better balance between her own singing (likely thanks in part to the Hot Toddy she sipped between songs) and the pre-recorded atmospheric vocals that played behind her. Goulding has a distinct “northern” charm, similar to La Roux or Robyn; the songs are anthemic and yet they feel more genuine than the stuff of American pop singers. Goulding’s natural sex appeal played a secondary role during the performance, but the occasional thrust and grind during “Every Time You Go” and “Your Biggest Mistake” kept the young crowd’s hormones in action.
Playing nearly every song from her 2010 debut “Lights,” the set went away from autopilot mode with the Elton John cover “Your Song” and a fantastic Kanye West “Power” interlude on “Salt Skin,” borrowing the drum and bass line and the marching line chorus. A nice departure from the pop-electronica was a steel pan sample that echoed behind Goulding’s second-to-last song, “Lights.”
As she became looser on stage and her vocal range improved, I couldn’t help but liken Goulding to Shakira…if Shakira were covered in a dank, British moss and had, frankly, better songs. Goulding’s seduction is masked by her lack of exoticness, yet the songs, stage presence and sexual undertones all contributed to a punchy and hot set; and it wasn’t just a residual burn from Saturday’s 80-degree temps.
Remix kings the Knocks opened for Goulding and had the crowd amped for the looming sweaty summer.
Ellie Goulding + the Knocks at Lincoln Hall
Last night's show with British pop chanteuse Ellie Goulding and hipster New York electro-pop duo the Knocks was a testament to music in the Internet age. Goulding's album has been out in the U.S. for less than a month and yet a sold out crowd had already started mobbing the stage for the Knocks's opening set. The Knocks don't even have an album out yet. But in this day and age, that sort of physical product is a bit of an after thought, something done almost purely to honor a longstanding tradition.
For Goulding and the Knocks, their careers begin—and flourish—on the Internet. Both are blog sensations. That's how I discovered both, and I was not alone. Myself, the friend who joined me, and most of all, Goulding were dumbfounded by how well the audience knew her material.
In another interesting post-record label twist, the entire show was being filmed and broadcast live on Facebook thanks to the mobile phone giant T-Mobile. The latest company to join the ranks of Scion, Mountain Dew, Converse and Red Bull, T-Mobile was there to gain cool points by association and the crowd didn't seem to mind. They gave it their all in front of those cameras; anyone watching online had to be jealous at having to see songs unfold in 2D.
Kicking off with their potent electro thump right at 7:30, the Knocks totally killed it live. If these guys don't make it back to Chicago in a headlining slot of their own—or dare I say a slot at Lollapalooza—it's a damn shame. Energetic and primed for the dance floor, the duo didn't lose sight of how a little sugary pop overtone here and there can elevate their sound for broader consumption. The audience, which was about 70% girls, bobbed, twisted and shrilled as the pair skipped through a handful of original productions and a supremely crowd-pleasing remix medley that touched on Usher and Major Lazer, just to name two. If the crowd didn't know the Knocks last night, they've surely done their due diligence by now and downloaded its catalog, which is all readily available online.
The spritely young Goulding took the stage around 8:45. She was battling with her voice and double fisting tea and apple juice and vodka cocktails. I can honestly say that in any other setting this would have been a disappointment. She couldn't pack the full punch she made clear that she wanted to, and on some choruses she had to bow out of singing altogether. What could have been a performance ender, all this did was leave more room for the crowd to fill in the blanks. These kids knew all the words. All of them. And they couldn't have been happier to show support for their newest pop idol. Her banter in between songs made the situation that much more endearing. Her voice hoarse, she thanked us all for the enthusiasm and promised a return appearance to make up for it—again, Lollapalooza anyone?
Her songs were a joy live. She's folksier and less cheeky than Lily Allen, less angsty than La Roux's Elly Jackson and she still churns out sincere (and self written) dance pop the way only the British can. She led with "Between the Sheets," which seemed to be playing a big card too early, but the revelers only amped up with each subsequent internet-spawned hit: "Guns and Horses," "This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)," "Your Biggest Mistake." The 24-year-old covered all the highlights of Bright Lights concluding with "Starry Eyed" and everyone in the building would have been happy to sit tight and dance it out to her doing the whole set over again.
I saw her live in Chicago and I thought it was awesome. So for the TL;DR crowd, she was really sick, to the point I'm surprised she even went on with the show. She performed everything except 'Human' and had the crowd help her out. The Knocks were amazing live and need to do more performances. She promised she was going to come back to Chicago, so I'm hoping it's for her own show and not just going to Lollapalooza. Was anyone else at the shows? I have some crappy photos and videos at my blog, so check it out. A Night At Lincoln Hall.
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