Goldfrapp - Wolverhampton Civic Hall
No wonder Eugene McGuinness looks a tad nervous as he emerges onstage at the Civic; looking like Alex Turner's younger brother, dressed in jeans and long-sleeve tee, he hardly conjures the flamboyance of tonight's main attraction. He is at odds with the flower-power of Goldfrapp's stage set and, with only his trusty acoustic in hand, he looks a bit dwarfed considering the synths, harps, drums et al littered about the stage. I'm rooting for him and, as soon as he launches into Moscow State Circus, he proves the 'one man and his guitar' schtick can equal showmanship just as much as elaborate costumes and band set-ups.
Showcasing songs from his self-titled debut, McGuinness cuts a charming figure as his rich voice traverses the wordplay of swooning pop like Rings Around Rosa and Wendy Wonders. It's a shame he's not joined by his band as Nightshift and Fonz, which rock on the album, would benefit from the added 'oomph'. Similarly, he cuts out certain multi-vocal parts of songs (Moscow's climactic 'tumbling down a rabbit hole' refrain is gone) which wouldn't be logistical with only him performing. Still, it's nice to hear him stripped back as he is a solo artist after all, and there's no doubting his talent. One day, I hope to see him touring the UK with a six-piece band like Alison Goldfrapp, showcasing the layers to his songs; on that day, I'll be able to say, 'Yup, I saw this guy play with just a guitar'. People will fall at my feet.
Of course, people already fall at the feet of Ms Goldfrapp. The six members of this tour's band, including Alison's electro-whizz musical partner Will Gregory, arrive onstage and take to their stations around their instrument(s) of choice. Dressed completely in white, they contrast with lady Alison herself who, once accustomed to the shock of her bushy yellow mane, I realise is working a salmon-pink slip thing with pom-poms hanging off it; I won't pretend I know anything about style but she looks fucking good. Opening with Felt Mountain track Paper Bag is a stroke of genius that plays to the hardcore fans but the rest of the setlist is more predictable, made up of material from the new album and the greatest hits. Still, this is no bad thing when you consider the strength of The Seventh Tree and just how great those hits are. An extended jam of Little Bird merits the acid trip displayed on the backdrop, contrasting with the pastoral and melancholy likes of A & E and Eat Yourself. During these, Alison’s voice is transcendent as she wraps herself around the mic, going internal but keeping the eyes of the audience glued to her performance. It’s criminal that the otherworldly folk of Clowns is completely absent but the majority of punters are inevitably waiting for the glam disco that made an icon out of the outfit’s leading lady. They’re certainly receptive to the band’s recent change in musical direction, swaying politely, but I would be a richer man if I earned a quid every time someone hollered, “STRICT MACHINE!”
When the electro anthems come, it’s the hottest ticket in Wolvo town (not hard then) this Saturday night. Number One sounds so good that it’s a wonder it never hit that top spot but Ooh La La and Train are received equally as well, the crowd stomping along as Alison switches persona. She purrs every lyric seductively, pure sex, grooving dramatically across the length of the stage. While she resembles Kate Bush channelling Kylie, Will swaps woodwind and strings for dirty electric guitar. During a third act free of introspection and all about exhibition, the Black Cherry/Supernature-era hits are interspersed with the two upbeat tracks off the new album, Happiness and Caravan Girl. These work tremendously well, the band evoking a communal spirit in the Civic and looking like a sexier Polyphonic Spree while they’re at it.
Leave it to Strict Machine to bring the room to its knees, though. An intro of harsh electronic sounds menacingly shudders the song into life, Alison looking positively possessed as she jerks into the ‘wonderful electric’ chorus. This fan favourite has been meticulously tightened into a juggernaut climax and, sure enough, the house lights are the only encore we’re getting tonight. Despite this (and a lack of Clowns - can you tell I’m angry?!), the crowd seem positively thrilled by the display and leave happy in the knowledge that the Goldfrapp machine is as well-lubricated as ever. Coupled with McGuinness’s support slot, a month of impressive gigs in the West Mids is rounded off with another great night of music.