“Singer-electronic-er” is a clumsy riff on “singer-songwriter,” yet it’s a description that describes the folksy dubstep of Ellie Goulding. Occasionally playing an acoustic guitar and flanked by three lads, the British indie singer played an emptier-than-advertised sold out gig Saturday night at the Fox.
With more than a few adult chaperones keeping an eye on the scene, the crowd seemed to illustrate the youthful enthusiasm that Goulding belted from stage. Fans’ preshow chatter said that Goulding had been suffering from laryngitis during the last few shows, so I questioned her choice of opening song, “Under the Sheets.” Despite its energizing qualities, it put some strain on her vocal chords right out of the gate and sounded more whispered than the falsetto-stretching qualities of the record.
As the show progressed, Goulding found a better balance between her own singing (likely thanks in part to the Hot Toddy she sipped between songs) and the pre-recorded atmospheric vocals that played behind her. Goulding has a distinct “northern” charm, similar to La Roux or Robyn; the songs are anthemic and yet they feel more genuine than the stuff of American pop singers. Goulding’s natural sex appeal played a secondary role during the performance, but the occasional thrust and grind during “Every Time You Go” and “Your Biggest Mistake” kept the young crowd’s hormones in action.
Playing nearly every song from her 2010 debut “Lights,” the set went away from autopilot mode with the Elton John cover “Your Song” and a fantastic Kanye West “Power” interlude on “Salt Skin,” borrowing the drum and bass line and the marching line chorus. A nice departure from the pop-electronica was a steel pan sample that echoed behind Goulding’s second-to-last song, “Lights.”
As she became looser on stage and her vocal range improved, I couldn’t help but liken Goulding to Shakira…if Shakira were covered in a dank, British moss and had, frankly, better songs. Goulding’s seduction is masked by her lack of exoticness, yet the songs, stage presence and sexual undertones all contributed to a punchy and hot set; and it wasn’t just a residual burn from Saturday’s 80-degree temps.
Remix kings the Knocks opened for Goulding and had the crowd amped for the looming sweaty summer.
Craig Randall is a Boulder-based writer and PR pro with an identity crisis. He credits both “Let Me Love You Down” and “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” as life-changing tracks. Check out his website.