If Ellie Goulding has a career plan (and let’s not assume for one moment that she doesn’t), things must be right on schedule. Kicking off with the BBC Sound of 2010 win and Brit Critics Choice Award, she has moved from a commercially successful debut album to an even bigger second record, boosting her international profile in the process. When she brought her Halcyon Days tour to Dublin last year it was for a date at the Olympia. Less than a year later and she’s packing the O2. Little Boots and La Roux must be watching on in envy.
It’s a big step up, though, and one that we’re not sure Goulding is ready to take. Big crowds are no problem for her – last summer’s Electric Picnic slot proved that – but this latest set up pushes all the responsibility onto her young shoulders. The excellent set of musicians are pushed to the rear of the stage, dressed in uniform black, leaving only a set of choreographed backing singers for her to awkwardly interact with on the odd occasion. It highlights many of the problems here tonight, with the show falling between the fully fledged glory of a Girls Aloud-style pop show and something more real and achieving the heights of neither. Tellingly, the best moments come during a mid section where she plays it completely straight, donning an acoustic guitar for a solo version of ‘Guns & Horses’ before Elton’s ‘Your Song’ and a beautiful interpretation of the Waterboys’ ‘How Long Will I Love You’. It’s the most comfortable she looks all night.
Elsewhere, she’s not up to carrying such a large show yet. Stomping from side to side in a manner oddly reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne (albeit in a leather hooded swim suit and Doc Martens), neither her voice or sweet personality are quite enough to fill the room. The set is still short on enough big tunes too, with many of them merging into one electronic pop mush. Those that do emerge are might fine, however, loaded at the start (‘Figure 8’, ‘Goodness Gracious Me’) and a thrilling end of the set. ‘Anything Can Happen’, ‘Lights’ and ‘I Need Your Love’ all set the place alight and prove that there’s depth to the pop sheen, if not quite enough so far. Finishing with a mighty run through ‘Burn’ (complete with electric guitar), there’s enough here to suggest that Ellie Goulding has got it in her to continue to grow and fill in the gaps that exist at the moment. Let’s hope it’s part of the plan.