Goldfrapp - The Lowry, Manchester
There are some acts who you get the feeling are fundamentally just playing a bunch of their stuff live, and if it happens to be coherent as a show or form some kind of narrative, that's just a happy accident. At the diametric opposite end of this scale sits the current Goldfrapp tour.
It's unsurprising that an act who put together a movie for their new album Tales Of Us have given some thought to live performance, but from the moment the house lights go down and the introduction to Peter And The Wolf is played (in which it's explained which instruments correspond to which animals) you find yourself enjoying a performance that feels intricately planned.
The lighting design throughout is top notch, but brilliant design would be nothing without the perfect sound mix that accompanied it, with Alison's vocals never overwhelmed by either the instruments in the softer numbers and nor do they get lost amidst the pulverizing bass of 'Train' or 'Strict Machine'. It's rare to go to a show where you can hear real dynamic range during a performance and it validates the choice of seated venues with great acoustics.
As long-time watchers know, there's broadly two kinds of Goldfrapp album - the ethereal atomspheric type (Seventh Tree, Felt Mountain, Head First) and then there's the more danceable stuff (Black Cherry, Supernature, Head First). With this in mind perhaps, set list wise, they make the slightly risky move of frontloading the set with sedate if atmospheric material primarily culled from their newest album, which makes thematic sense. Spotlights pick out the individual members of the five piece band as they're performing, tying in neatly with the spoken word intro.
The evening kicks up a gear with 'Number 1' and culminates in a run through 'Strict Machine' that makes you wish the chairs would sink into the floor and force the holdouts in the audience to get up and dance. Speaking of the audience, it's clear that not everyone is open to all sides of Goldfrapp. Amazingly, the woman sat next to me has a little doze during one of the earlier numbers, but clearly appreciates the retina-searing light and racket of the livelier stuff, while the couple in their fifties in front of me nodding along to the quiet stuff seem a little perplexed by the shift in gears. Sadly, history doesn't record what the couple sat on the adjacent table in the restaurant beforehand who had conflated Alison Goldfrapp with Paloma Faith thought. I like to imagine they were converted by a show that was as perfect a collaboration of musicianship and visuals as you're likely to find.
Jo / Drew / Stranger / Alvar / Annabel / Clay / Yellow Halo / Little Bird / You Never Know / Number 1 / Thea / Ride a White Horse / Train --- Utopia / Clowns / Lovely Head / Strict Machine