LIVE: Goldfrapp, Salt Ashes - Birmingham Symphony Hall, 13/04/2022

LIVE: Goldfrapp, Salt Ashes – Birmingham Symphony Hall, 13/04/2022

Tonight the plush surroundings of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall play host to the lush stylings of Goldfrapp, represented tonight by singer Alison Goldfrapp and eight touring musicians, including a string quartet, assembled with a view to recreating the more orchestral, cinematic side of the band’s oeuvre (as part of an anniversary tour for the band’s debut Felt Mountain, advertised as “an evening that will cross the soft strata of their seminal album and beyond”). The other ‘official’ half of Goldfrapp, instrumentalist Will Gregory, is not present – he often opts not to tour these days, though is very much still part of the creative process.

Before Goldfrapp, though, we have a generous 45 minute support set from Veiga Sanchez, a London-based artist who performs under the name Salt Ashes. It’s an excellent match and Sanchez begins her set with a version of her 2014 single ‘If You Let Me Go’ that starts quietly, showing off her impressive vocals before unexpectedly bursting into life, with beats and bass coming in. Salt Ashes effortlessly wins over a large proportion of the crowd; a likeable and engaging presence, great songs and a voice that is quite spectacular without ever straying into the realms of over-singing. New single ‘Body Says’ is another highlight, an uptempo dance tune masking the serious lyrics. She leaves the stage having hopefully gained a sizeable new audience.

There’s a huge reception for Alison Goldfrapp as she enters the stage, followed quickly by rapt attention in respect of the extraordinary tunes that make up Felt Mountain, an album that seemingly appeared from nowhere back at the start of the millennium. Beginning with that record’s title track, it’s immediately obvious to Goldfrapp aficionados that this isn’t a “play the album in order” kind of arrangement, (that song not being the album’s opener), and although we begin with five Felt Mountain tracks, keys songs ‘Paper Bag’ and ‘Pilots’ thrown in early, when Seventh Tree’s ‘Road To Somewhere’ appears next, it’s clear that the evening is planned to showcase those songs from the band’s catalogue that are in the spirit of the debut – in other words, the more gentle, thoughtful side of a body of work that also takes in darkly danceable synthpop and occasionally more straight-ahead pop (for instance, the brilliant Head First album, that sadly won’t be visited at all this evening).

The set list is perfectly chosen though and creates a spellbinding atmosphere, pin-drop attentiveness and indeed reverence from the capacity audience, who cheer in all the right places and are silent in all the right places. There’s no idle chatter here and hardly a phone in sight. ‘Moon In Your Mouth’ from the most recent Goldfrapp album Silver Eye is an unexpected but welcome inclusion. Alison has never been the type of artist who seems entirely comfortable chatting with a crowd; a woman shouts “Alison, you’re so beautiful” in a quiet moment (between songs) and she seems to not really know how to respond, a bashful “Thanks” before quickly proceeding into the next song. It’s as if she is entirely focussed on producing the perfect show, a sort of artistic tunnel vision.

’Utopia’ raises the already high bar even higher, a staggering rendition that will surely take some beating. It’s a good job that the band have ‘Lovely Head’ at their disposal, then – a truly exceptional song which is delivered impeccably – with Alison leaving the stage at the end, followed by the rest of the ensemble who then return and flick a metaphorical switch to become ‘dance Goldfrapp’, Alison asking the audience to stand (in the Symphony Hall, if you will!) and suddenly four layers of the venue are showing their appreciation for Silver Eye’s ‘Anymore’, before being delighted by two of the band’s hits, Supernature’s ‘Ride A White Horse’ and the ideal closer in ‘Strict Machine’ from the landmark second record Black Cherry.

You might have guessed that this 20th anniversary show was two years late, (you may even have guessed why!), but no-one in the Symphony Hall tonight would deny that it was worth the wait.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.