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Goldfrapp at XFM's Access All April - Gig Review

Pop stars are like sharks. They look slimy, they’re attracted to the smell of blood, and if they stop moving, they'll die. It’s all about re-invention...

Published on April 19th 2006.

Goldfrapp at XFM's Access All April - Gig Review
GoldfrappXFM's Access All AprilSupport: Vib Gyor, Shortwave SetThe Ritz, Manchester

Pop stars are like sharks. They look slimy, they’re attracted to the smell of blood, and if they stop moving, they'll die. It’s all about re-invention. The Beatles went from ‘clean-cut youngsters’ to bearded, acid-scorched hippies; Bowie became an alien, Madonna went from hairy-pop starlet, to S&M-endorsing nymphomaniac, and then cockney. Even Blur’s Damon Albarn became a 2-dimensional representation of himself, and then became a cartoon…

Alison Goldfrapp, originally a shadowy purveyor of soprano-seeped ambience as with debut album Felt Mountain, soon decided that hiding behind a poignant voice wasn’t nearly as appealing as becoming a full blown sleaze-pop glam diva. A risky move, but trading a critically acclaimed album in for a pair of stilettos seems to have paid off; Goldfrapp slapped on the make-up and haven’t looked back since.

As a part of XFM’s Access All April, - which includes Embrace, The Charlatans, Elbow, The Go! Team and Feeder – Goldfrapp hit The Ritz. As do the support acts. Vib Gyor, like many 3rd billed acts, seem slightly misplaced. Despite the lead singer’s unfortunate beanie, they produce chiming guitar crescendos which softly and frequently rise above the venue’s balconies and confusingly labelled lavatories.

Shortwave Set on the other hand, have taken Goldfrapp’s shape-shifting on board, they have kazoos, banjos, perverted-harmonicas and are somewhat like sitting on a suitcase full of Spaniels, just when you think you’ve got them sorted, their sound jumps out and runs around, barking, only through a megaphone. But Shortwave Set aren’t that interesting, their sound is confused and schizophrenic, and each song is like a new adventure into tedium.

Goldfrapp appear in single file. First, there’s the archetypal gay man, sporting a brilliant white beret, a golf outfit with a tight sweater (he plays bass), a Siouxsie Sioux look alike with strapped-on keyboard, a drummer, and then there’s a caveman in a flowing grey robe playing the violin.

Alison, dressed in simple navy jeans and black top, appears strangely understated until she opens her mouth and unleashes the ‘OooohoooohAAAAAAGHS’ of Utopia. Her voice, beneath the canopy of blonde locks and pouting lips, is Goldfrapp’s biggest weapon. Ominous green lights and smoke leak onto the stage, and she twists and turns her arms and fingers as if her haunting voice is breaking them; if this was the dark ages, she’d be burnt as a witch.

There are two wind machines located under Alison’s microphone to which she seems smitten, constantly crouching down to blow her hair in all directions. One of the highlights of the evening is the addition of Goldfrapp’s legendary dancers; their first incarnation is of wolf-beasts, the second Visage-inspired dolls, the third, sparkly horse-heads and the final instalment looks something like that Blue-Man group, or more geekishly, like X-Men’s Mystique. The biggest crowd rousers of the evening come with their later singles; ‘Ooh La La’ as well as most songs from Black Cherry and Supernature, Alison’s voice ranging from operatic to a sexually-charged pant.

If this was rock music, and not sleazy electro-disco, it would all be a cliché. But in Goldfrapp’s world, they’re successfully bringing back spectacle to performance, and doing so with enough dexterity to avoid ridicule themselves in the process. Great stuff.

If you’re interested in finding out who’s on during XFM’s Access All April, visit the website here.

For more information on upcoming gigs and releases from Goldfrapp, visit their website here.

Stephen Fairbanks
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