Don’t let Ellie Goulding fool you. Her brand of icona-pop is more polished than it seems. At Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Friday night, Goulding commanded a respect that transcends many of her pop music contemporaries by flashing the cache of a cool veteran.
Goulding worked the crowd on acoustic guitar on “Guns And Horses,” played floor tom and snare on “Starry Eyed” and interlaced that virtuosity with dancehall showmanship on tracks like “Anything Could Happen.” Her music sounds like big anthem bubblegum pop, but it is really more intricate and deliberate at the core. Her influences are also clear; Goulding covered Elton John’s “Your Song” and championed the stage presence and sex appeal of Gwen Stefani. The Stefani comparisons cannot be understated. With her ripped mid-riff on subtle display and long blonde hair in full Loreal’ glam, Goulding gyrated on stage with athletic sprite and belted-out falsetto shrills and runs with a steady hand. Goulding also has a universal charm: most women want to be her and most guys want to date her. That is a rare feat in a polarized pop universe dominated by Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj.
The real turning point of the night came with “Anything Could Happen,” the lead single from her 2012 release, “Halcyon.” Goulding finally loosened-up enough under the glow of her Red Rocks debut and unleashed a playful dance party on her sun-soaked faithful. Coupled with “I Need Your Love” and “Lights,” the crowd pulsed under the psychotropic backdrop of the EMD-inspired LED set design. Skrillex would be proud.
As her set drew to a close, Goulding didn’t let playing at altitude diminish her energy. “Burn” was as good as advertised, looping and expanding into a mushroom cloud of liquid gold. For being just a simple pop song, it sure is a sugary gem.
Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.