TO BE the first audience to hear a band’s new album is special.
To be the first audience to hear a band’s new album with the one-off accompaniment of the Royal Northern College of Music’s string orchestra and choir is the stuff of dreams.
And dream-like it was.
As part of two extraordinary MIF evenings, electronic music act Goldfrapp not only brought their new album to Albert Hall, but a 20 string, strong orchestra and choir of twelve to boot.
Acoustic conditions in Albert Hall transcended physics for a gig of such magnitude. Guests were able to hear Alison breathlessly teasing her way through every lyric of this brilliant penmanship...
Performing tracks from their long-awaited sixth studio album Tales Of Us, due out in September, an ethereal Alison Goldfrapp appeared in a beam of light at the majestic setting of the restored Methodist meeting hall. The orchestra were positioned above her, illuminated when necessary, revealing their rich synchronisation.
As the album title suggests, tracks were indeed random tales picked up on the travels of Goldfrapp duo Alison and Will.
From contrary love affairs, to hallucinations, fairy tales and modern folklores, each was introduced by Alison from “Anabelle – the story of a girl trapped in the body of a boy” to “Clay – a song based on a letter I read on Letters Of Note. It’s about two soldiers who fell in love”.
Named after each tale’s protagonist songs unfolded from Alison’s lips, one by one, revealing a deeply evocative portrayal of their poetry.
Acoustic conditions in Albert Hall transcended physics for a gig of such magnitude. Guests were able to hear Alison breathlessly teasing her way through every lyric of this brilliant penmanship and even in the quietest of inflections, her purrs reverberated round the hall as the audience looked on in awe, fanning hypnotically in the humidity.
It was as though we were in a Baptist church in Kentucky, only this was Goldfrapp’s sermon and succumb to it we did. I for one have never been so hot yet so spine-tinglingly cold at the same time.
Starting gently, the layered production finally reached its crescendo with the track Drew, as the RNCM orchestra took both the song and the room to its full cinematic capacity while Alison’s haunting silhouette cast a shadow on the hall - a James Bond title sequence in the making.
Moving on to more familiar Goldfrapp tracks, A&E, Lovely Head and Brown Paper Bag gave way for interaction with the wonderful choir who appeared like little cherubs, floating above Alison and the band.
The other half of Goldfrapp, Will Gregory, also appeared at this point, synthesiser on lap, ready to revamp their back catalogue in this special environment.
In homage to their electronic sound, the stage lit up at several points with vivid colours and a strategically placed fan gave the lead guitarist that Michael Jackson Black Or White hook rockstar moment.
The drummer crashed away and keyboardist foot stomped with purpose. Put it this way, there was plenty to be fascinated by.
As far as gigs go, sweltering conditions aside, this was as good as it gets.
Goldfrapp know what makes a perfect pop song and the RNCM know how to really bring a pop song alive. Luckily, Manchester also knows how to appreciate rare and unbelievable opportunities such as this.
And as a perfectly symbolic and utterly spontaneous butterfly fluttered around Alison as she played out to Little Bird, I don’t think she could quite believe it herself.
Follow Lynda Twitter @lyndamoyo
Goldfrapp’s new album Tales Of Us is out on Monday 9 September.
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