Ellie Goulding, O2 Arena, London – review

Ellie Goulding, arena star. I’m not sure the 27-year-old from Herefordshire quite believes it herself. This was an all-singing, all-stomping show where the overwhelming vibe was one of giddiness. Her styles ranged from rock belter via electro diva to innocent girl, and her moves were clumpily, even rather endearingly unpolished. Game gal, she wore a skin-tight, sheer jump-suit in nude, gold and black: picture a sporty type dressed as a disco Stevie Nicks.

It was almost as if Goulding and her similarly excited admirers forgot to breathe during the first half dozen songs. On a punchy “Goodness Gracious” and a bouncy, beefed-up “Starry Eyed”, Goulding seemed to pant the words. With both her albums to date having required the extra shove of a repackaged release, 2010’s Lights as Bright Lights and 2012’s Halcyon as Halcyon Days, you can see why she might be impatient to crack on now. Yet greater poise – as opposed to posing – and attention to pacing wouldn’t have hindered her unduly.

Boom-click R&B takes on Alt-J’s “Tessellate” and James Blake’s “Life Round Here” brought a welcome rhythmic downshift. Goulding’s versatile vocal located the requisite nocturnal allure, sounding nearly as sexy as the arrangements she cooed over. Promising, I think. Played solo on acoustic guitar, “Guns and Horses” evinced that catch in her voice that does owh-owh-odd things with syllables and makes it resemble a Celtic pixie’s. “Your Song”, the Sir Elton number that did so much to enhance Goulding’s sales, started a ballad section that was touching, if you had the heart for it and could abide her occasionally yokel pronunciation (“I’d buy a big ’ouwse where we both could live”).

The darker beats of “My Blood” were cleansed by a blandly uplifting Coldplay-ish chorus. “Anything Could Happen”, with its jaunty, Scissor Sisters piano and chantable chorus, had the fans in happy hysterics. “I Need Your Love”, Goulding’s collaboration with that connoisseur of dancefloor catnip Calvin Harris, was ravey, crowd-pleasing pabulum; “Lights” was somewhat slinkier hipped and sung to a cavern of mobile-phone fireflies.

In genre terms, Goulding does a little with a lot. Without completely nailing any of it. As the encore raged to the wonky synths of “Burn”, I left with a feeling akin to being bottled in a branded energy drink and shaken by a hyperactive child. Just where mainstream pop wants us, right?

US tour begins March 12; elliegoulding.com

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