The second the houselights dropped, the chanting began as if at a pep rally.
“El-lie. El-lie. El-lie.”
The sprite-like Ellie Goudling might not possess the vocal prowess of Adele or Emeli Sande or some of her other U.K. peers, but she’s clearly tapped into something that speaks to legions of twentysomethings – including the 2,500 or so at Friday’s sold-out Tabernacle show, the third date of her U.S. tour.
It didn’t matter if you could barely hear Goulding’s voice – aural cotton candy that was easily and continually overwhelmed by her four-piece band and the non-stop chatter of the crowd. Her devotees – the ones not talking through the uptempo songs, the ballads or her lovely (infamous) cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” during the encore – sang along heartily with every one of her 18 offerings of airy dance pop, from the title track of her current album, “Halcyon” to the song that broke her in England in 2009, “Under the Sheets.”
Throughout the 90-minute set, Goulding paused every few songs to humbly thank the crowd and express a genuine sense of gratitude. Though it was usually impossible to decipher her proclamations, she did comment (we think) about how she’s still getting used to playing for larger crowds and also that the Tabernacle was a “really, really cool place to play.”
At 26, and a few years into a career that received a tremendous name-recognition boost when Prince William and Kate Middleton tapped her to sing at their 2011 wedding reception, Goulding is seasoned enough to project an enjoyable stage presence.
She engaged in some PG-13 gyrating during “Salt Skin,” seductively tossed her trimmed white-gold locks and frequently returned to her Gotye-like setup at the front of the stage – a floor tom and sequencer that she occasionally beat and fiddled with for vocal effects, respectively – while bouncing around in her black hot pants and fringed black tank top.
Most of her songs follow a similar route of building into a creamy crescendo (“Joy,” “Explosions”) and her latest single “Anything Can Happen,” which could use a nudge at radio, is a percolating disco march with a chorus that lodges in your brain. So it was a welcome detour when Goulding stood alone onstage with an acoustic guitar to perform “Guns and Horses,” the type of song that best suits her wispy soprano.
Another sign of the committed nature of Goulding’s fans: She performed at least six songs from her new album, and those crammed near the front of the stage who were thoroughly connected with the show knew every word (and rarely slipped out for the obligatory new-song beverage run).
Goulding, to no surprise, saved her U.S. breakthrough, “Lights,” for the end, easily stirring the crowd into a pogo-ing mass with the song’s carbonated synth-beat.
“Lights” was a slow-burner on the U.S. charts, taking about eight months to climb into the Top 5. It’s probably symbolic of Goulding’s career, which should sustain itself nicely if she continues to receive such rabid fan support.
(Click here for a gallery of photos from Friday’s concert.)
By Melissa Ruggieri, The Music Scene