Xbox Reverb presents Ellie Goulding, Chew Lips and Wolfgang
Cardiff Arts Institute
Thurs 4 Feb
When I accidentally blundered into Ellie Goulding’s dressing room just before she was due on stage, she was bounding around the room doing warm-up vocals with her drummer. I mean, actually bouncing, singing into a water bottle and jumping off the furniture in the way you’d expect your little sister to when nobody’s looking. It was funny to watch until she noticed me and flashed an incredulous smile that made me feel a bit leery. We laughed it off, anyway.
But it was that playful naivety that made its way into her performance. Constantly checking on the crowd and apologising for everything, she was noticeably less self-assured than forerunners Chew Lips. Still, she seemed to be enjoying herself much more. She pitched into every song with a kind of shoulder-shrugging enthusiasm that made her instantly likeable. “This one’s called Swimming Pool,” she announced at one point, “although I don’t really know why” – before dissolving into laughter, muttering into the microphone, and finally launching into the vocal. If Ellie might not be able to entirely comprehend her stupendous ascent, you get a strong sense that she’s relishing the adventure, singing her heart out, and seeing where it takes her next. So this was a tight, charismatic performance, and while it’s tempting to suspect a lot of post-production has been worked on Ellie’s voice, it was just as exquisite live as it is on record.
All of this, of course, makes it somewhat easier to overlook the creeping feeling that her impending album is a little lukewarm. Pared down to a guitarist, a drummer, a sampler and Ellie, her album tracks seemed to lack the glitchy hook of Starry Eyed or the thumping chorus of Under The Sheets. Not exactly bland, but not particularly arresting either, only Guns and Horses, which is itself a glorified folk song, seemed to stir up the audience in the way her lead singles have.
So those expecting a fresh take on electropop hinted at in Starry Eyed may have been disappointed. The hecklers were shouting “Jakwob” rather than “Judas”, which suggests that her critically acclaimed experiments in electro-folk-pop haven’t gone nearly far enough. This gig made it seem that Ellie isn’t taking the hype too seriously, but I suspect that she will have to work hard to hold interest.
Xbox Reverb is a series of intimate gigs taking place around the UK. Visit www.facebook.com./xboxreverb to get involved. Xbox Reverb is a national tour of music that has seen consumers putting on the best gigs with their favourite artists.
photos: Tom Hartrey