Ellie Goulding & Chew Lips - X-Box Reverb: Cardiff Arts Institute
The very idea of attending a gig with full-on corporate endorsement is enough to turn the heart to stone but somehow X-Box Reverb have hit upon a winning formula which sees the fans determine the artists and venue and then get in for free. It’s hard to fault the approach, particularly when the corporate presence, while visible, is low key: play some X-Box games in the corner if you want to, or just hang out at the bar listening to Bethan Elfyn spin some tunes between bands. Wolf Gang has been and gone by the time we make it into the venue but, thankfully, we are in time to secure a position at the front in time to catch a spellbinding frontwoman performance from Chew Lips Tigs who flits about the tiny stage like a human glitterball as the pounding disco beats keep the crowd on their toes. It’s a pulsating set, the highlight of which is the New Order-esque ‘Karen’, a track taken from their recently released debut which is currently featuring in the I-Tunes top twenty – placing it, as Tigs ruefully points out, above JLS but below Alvin & The Chipmunks. You’ve got to know your place in the world.
Ellie Goulding certainly knows her place in the world for she has been decreed as the ‘Next Big Thing’ and, if she was in any doubt, a glowing introduction from indie guru Huw Stephens reinforces the message. Bottom line: she shouldn’t be here crammed onto a stage the size of an X-Box console but yet here she is, almost performing in the audience and indistinguishable from most of the young girls who’ve turned out in force to cheer her on. She’s resolutely un-phased by the hype and it’s clear that she’s here because she just wants people to hear her music rather than because it is a great PR opportunity. Right from opening track ‘Guns n Horses’ she enthrals the audience who are literally hanging from the rafters in order to get a glimpse of her hemmed-in performance. She couldn’t be any more eyeball to eyeball with the front row but it is water off a duck’s back. "This is a song about couples," she says, introducing ‘The Writer’. "Well, it’s an anti-couple song actually," she corrects herself to a huge cheer. The performance is totally stripped down, as one might expect in such intimate surrounds, and she relies not one jot on vocal effects or gimmickry; this performance is wholly about the songs, be they her crowd pleasing ‘Under The Sheets’ or a gentle cover of Midlake’s ‘Roscoe’. Thankfully you don’t have to accept my word for it as footage of the show will soon be popping up on the X-Box Reverb website. Check it out, you may be surprised.