The diminutive Alison Goldfrapp surrounded by the impressive London Contemporary Orchestra in the majestic setting of the cavernous Royal Albert Hall looked uncertain, somehow frail and nervous – displaced perhaps, like some Hollywood star brought back to life in the shaft of light that bathed her. She looked a bit like Marlene Dietrich. Staring out into the crowd, she admitted she was nervous, it showed a charming vulnerability.
She is a true chameleon, you’re never sure what Alison Goldfrapp you will see. She displays the whole gamut of innocent childlike naivety, angelic otherworldliness, then she’s the sweet seductress, a screaming siren and a whirling dervish. In whatever form, her tiny frame with its powerhouse voice totally commands and captivates.
I’ve seen Goldfrapp many times and I imagine them to be sound perfectionists, every gig is note perfect, and this one was no different, apart from the feeling of occasion. While it may not be a “Last Hurrah” – it had the makings of one. Everything was pulled in, an orchestra, an amazing band, at one point the Lips Choir – made up of 54 female voices, and a special guest appearance by John Grant. Alison Goldfrapp and Grant proved an impressive double act as they sang the Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra hit One Velvet Morning, with Alison’s girly teasing a perfect foil for Grant’s deep throat masculinity.
The bulk of the night was a play through of latest album Tales of Us. The album is a departure from their electro-disco pop and very much a return to the vibe of Felt Mountain. So additional older songs such as Utopia fitted seamlessly into the set list. The carefully crafted and haunting songs of Tales of Us lent itself easily to the wonderful strings and arrangements of the orchestra.
Stranger is particularly beautiful. It’s a song to lose yourself in as you can feel the harmonies swirling around you, but watch the video which accompanies it and it’s a macabre and twisted contradiction.
It’s also begging to be used in a James Bond soundtrack. Goldfrapp should be creating movie soundtracks with their ease for crafting vast sweeping cinematic landscapes.
There were special programmes on the night, only 500 were made and each one was hand-stitched. They were numbered and signed by Alison and Will Gregory.
The nerves, although apparent at the beginning of the night, soon subsided, and Alison need not have worried. The audience were in the palm of her tiny hand and this was a truly memorable gig that captivated from start to finish.