Gig review: Goldfrapp @ The Albert Hall, Manchester International Festival

By Glen Keogh

In a Grade II-listed restored chapel in Manchester city centre, something special, something exciting, something which may never be seen again is taking place.

Hundreds of Mancunians are sweating – because of warm English weather.

No, for once that’s not the not the talking point despite its preposterousness. 

While it was hard to think about anything apart from being warm and sweaty in the cramped surroundings of the beautiful Albert Hall – all stained glass windows and church brick – Alison Goldfrapp managed to make sure all attention was on her.

The pixie-esque singer emerged all in black onto the stage, a silhouette of her blonde hair cast writhing shadows on the wall behind her.

Benches lined a balcony which peered below over standees and Alison, who commanded near silence from the crowd.

Despite the impressive surroundings, nobody could prevent the occasional, ‘WE LOVE YOU, ALISON’, from men and women alike.

This was the second of Goldfrapp’s two appearances at the Albert Hall as part of Manchester International Festival, which has commissioned a series of performances which are unlikely to take place again.

The splendour of the evening was completed by the string orchestra from the Royal Northern College of Music, who helped out the Goldfrapp live band.

But those who expected a hit-laden set to keep the baying crowds happy on such an important appearance will have been left a little surprised, but surely not disappointed, as the set featured hollowed-out versions of tracks, mostly from forthcoming album Tales of Us.

The impetus was on Alison’s vocals and commanding stage presence – every word which dripped from her lips with venom, or passion or lust was savoured by an adoring crowd.

The string section provided melancholy at one moment and power and thrust at others, so the whooping crescendos of songs like Simone whipped hot bodies into a frenzy.

It all seemed so easy. Wispy, light songs from the new record played with just acoustic guitar and Alison’s haunting voice held the same power and gusto as set closer Caravan Girl which saw a choir join for a rousing vocal encore.

Most importantly, this performance went as far as anything before in defining what Goldfrapp are and what they could go on to be remembered for.

Yes, they’re the band known for Ooh La La, but they’re also ethereal storytellers – capable of painting pictures in minds and exploring themes which so easily avoidable to other artists.

All this and more, as Alison knows she’s still also the perfect unattainable heartthrob for some men in attendance.

“Give me a fuckin’ vodka,” she laughed, with the audience in the palm of her hand.

Refusal would be unjust, as on that night in the stiflingly hot Albert Hall, we couldn’t have asked for more.

Picture courtesy of Andrew Brooks via MIF Press, with thanks.

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