Live Review: Goldfrapp bring metallic shimmer to Carriageworks as part of VIVID Sydney

“This gig’s like the difference between metallic and metal. Metallic’s still shiny and impressive, but doesn’t have the strength of actual metal,” was the analogy a friend made as we watched UK electro legend Alison Goldfrapp, clad in a head-to-toe metallic suit, perform as a part of VIVID Music at Carriageworks on Friday night.

The railway workshop was a fashionable but perhaps odd choice of venue. The majority of the crowd remained at slight sway/head-bobbing activity level all night, with barely any dance moves broken out – a rave befitting the standing, warehouse venue it certainly was not.

Given Goldfrapp’s career was at its apex a decade ago, most of the night’s crowd were aged 30+ plus, you’d assume they’d come along to transport themselves back to the dancefloor of their heady twentysomething youth – only there was significantly less dancing involved. It would have perhaps been more suited to a seated performance at the Opera House, ala the recent VIVID shows from Air and Nick Murphy, particularly given the slower-paced, atmospheric nature of much of Goldfrapp’s more recent output, too.

Even more bizarre that it wasn’t more of a dance party based on the crowd’s outfits… Goldfrapp’s colourful costume history (who could forget those harlequin rainbow clown onesies and dramatic black eye-make up?!) certainly inspired Friday night’s crowd, who channelled noughties electro-clash and disco-glam vibes in their outfits, with almost as many leather, fur, glitter, feathers, animal print and outrageous jackets on show as at Mardi Gras. Crowd dedication to the aesthetic clearly proves the 51-year-old still has plenty of die-hard fans out there.

Not to be outdone, Goldfrapp herself (the blonde perm of the noughties now replaced with deep red locks) was donned in silver boots, pants and jacket combo, flanked by two twin-like female synth/back up singers in Gothic-look long black robes – a devastatingly cool female power triangle casting a dark spell, particularly when they whipped out the three-part vocal harmonies… and the epic keytars.  

There was very little banter or interaction from Alison with her audience; and little direct engagement, instead the singer chose to keep a measured distance, striking a series of poses and mostly avoiding direct eye contact. Disappointing, but respect to her for still giving precedence to that mystery aspect of her brand several years on.

Her distinctive, wide-ranging voice was the centerpiece throughout the night, at times low, masculine and husky, other moments synthesized, euphoric, and then that unmistakeable whispery falsetto. It was mesmerizing to just be sung to by such a seductive voice, and pleasant to allow yourself to be lured into an almost hypnotic state.

The show opened with “Utopia”, an early Goldfrapp number, although “Lovely Head” that followed made more of an impression in terms of announcing their entrance. Soon thereafter we heard “Ocean”, which as one of several of the textural synth-pop numbers from her seventh and most recent album, Silver Eye, that the band played on the night. Goldfrapp delivered all her ambient material in a constrained, and considered manner – like an art performance or art project piece.

The emphasis on performance aesthetic played in perfectly with Goldfrapp’s visuals on the night – which were fairly jaw-dropping and meditative – a floor-to-ceiling video screen at the back of the stage projected a selection of universe/space imagery, from moon/sun ellipses, to close-up planet surfaces, and ticked the box in terms of the show’s inclusion in the visual-focused VIVID Sydney programme.

The moody ambient material performed on the night was strong, and enjoyable, but it was the mid-noughties tracks – the ones from the act’s zenith – that far-and-away felt the most thrilling to experience –  “Train” (from 2003’s Black Cherry), and “Ride a White Horse” (from 2005’s Supernature), “Systematic” and “Number 1″, peaking in the blistering renditions of “Oh La La” and “Strict Machine” that concluded the set, and finally kicked off the rave… just as the lights came up.

The reviewer attended this show at Carriageworks on June 2nd.

Photo Credit:  Daniel Boud.