She might be a mere 23 years old and technically still a mid-degree gap year student (can anyone really see her going back?), but Ellie Goulding is already a controversial topic at State HQ. The traditional “review up for grabs” email a week before tonight’s show was greeted with comments that ranged from “I don’t hate her, she just bores the bejaysus out of me” to “she’s good live, it’s not going to change the world but it’s sweet stuff”. After just two singles, that’s some array of feedback. As possibly the only remaining State member of staff yet to have formed an opinion on Ellie, I powered up YouTube and volunteered my services. After all, when you’re two singles down and already being hailed as the founder of a new genre (“posh pop”, apparently, though we’d still argue it’s just a very catchy, hook-ridden form of electro-pop), you’ve got to be worth a look, right?
Having been competently supported by Kildare’s Planet Parade – a band who pack far more of a punch live than on their debut album – Ellie takes to the stage with a smile of near disbelief, the chants of “Ellie, Ellie” already echoing around the Academy. Judging by the party atmosphere, much of tonight’s crowd has already been won over. So much so, in fact, that at times they becomes a bit of an annoyance. State takes no issue with enthusiasm but a few too many seem to be here to scream over the music rather than actually listen to it.
Still, in between the aural blasts there’s clearly something a little special going on here. While the singer’s weaker tracks are still come across as a bit of a dirge, Ellie’s stage show is never boring and packs enough variety and compelling pace changes to make for a lively night. You can almost sense when Goulding really believes in her own material: the drumsticks come out, the stage-strutting starts, or she eyes the stage side wings and croons, eyes locked shut, moves that invariably coincide with the set highlights. Towards the end of the evening, for example, the sense of climax really builds, especially when set highlight – the brilliantly delicate, drum-driven album track -Salt Skin’ – is immediately followed by early single -Under The Sheets’. In the latter, Goulding rants “We’re under the sheet, you’re killing me, like all the boys before, like all the boys, boys, boys, boys”, clutching at her heart and belting out the words with vocals that – unusually – seem stronger live than they do on record.
Sure, it’s a touch abrasive, but it’s also fist-pumpingly lively and infectious as hell, and the party that’s going on stage-front blends perfectly with Goulding’s enthusiastic drumming and confident stage presence. Fresh from supporting Passion Pit, she’s already developing the vibe of a seasoned pop star, pushing through an energetic and entertaining live performance, one that – fan of the album -Lights’ or not – is going a long way towards justifying the vocal support and mass marketing campaign.
Inevitable closer Starry Eyed – introduced by Goulding with a flashing gesture in front of her face – is an undeniably engaging moment, packing a punch that the radio track lacks. It has The Academy enraptured and sends the assembled throngs into the Sunday evening air with massive smiles on their faces. There’s no doubt Ellie Goulding is a competent live performer, though one whose still a track or two short of truly brilliant. If the final four or five tracks are anything to go by, though, that’s only a matter of time.
Photos: Damien McGlynn