Ellie Goulding at Ogden Theatre, 2/1/13
The Halcyon Days Tour that Ellie Goulding's currently on does not seem to change from night to night. Her set at the Ogden Theatre began with "Don't Say a Word," and was followed by "Halcyon," "Figure 8" and "Salt Skin" -- the same as what she played in Montreal last week, which is the same set she played in Chicago three days ago. And this is just as well, since Goulding's intensely orchestrated stage show requires a heap of backing tracks and seamless transitions from song to song.
The pacing for the show is good. Start out big, keep the energy strong, and only let the crowd relax a few songs in. Goulding, clad in a black tanktop and black leather pants, was enthralled by and engaged with the capacity crowd. She was the anti-Cat Power, in other words.
Goulding's music has been categorized as everything from "dream pop" to "indietronica," but really, she's a pop singer. Unequivocally. This is verse-chorus-verse music with big vocals and major chords. That point was driven home by songs like "Joy" and "I Know You Care," mid-set numbers that may have shown a passing resemblance to alt-dance but are clearly more Go-Go's than Missing Persons.
Goulding even covered Elton John's "Your Song" halfway through the set last night, a song she performed live at Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding reception. If that's not mainstream sugary sweetness, we don't know what is.
The songs came and went quickly. Goulding must have packed three hours' worth of material into an hour-and-a-half long set just by skipping the excess banter. There were a few little nuggets though, such as when she said between songs, "I'm not very good at being a girl." It was a weird statement, considering the utter dream-diary girliness of her lyrics (to wit: "Stood in the rain and watched you go/I feel a lump in my throat/And this is far from joy").
The crowd didn't seem to mind, though. Damn near every track turned into a rousing singalong. The crowd was treated not only to their favorite songs, but much of Goulding's entire two-album catalog. "Under the Sheets" and "Anything Could Happen" (from 2010's Lights and 2012's Halcyon, respectively) were fine additions, with one segueing into the other to create a de facto dance party. The synths were on overdrive, and Goulding banged on a drum while singing. The girls at the front of the house went crazy, while the boys in the back of the room stood around playing on smartphones.
Personal Bias: This show resembled a much-younger version of the Alanis Morissette gig a few months back; if the crowd (and Goulding) been about twenty years older, there'd be hardly any difference at all.
Random Note: I'm always taking note of the number of bikes outside a show. Last year's Andrew Bird show was a veritable junk yard's worth of two-wheelers. There were zero at the Ogden last night.
By the Way: The U.K. special edition of Halcyon released last year included Polaroid pics signed by Goulding.
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