Goldfrapp – review

St John at Hackney, London

Some artists treat shows in churches as normal gigs, others discover previously unsuspected reservoirs of propriety and decorum. For this Mencap-sponsored gig in the Little Noise Sessions, which have transferred from Islington's Union Chapel to this Hackney church, Goldfrapp have forsaken their usual sexed-up electro-pop for a positively chilled-out serenity.

Eschewing her trademark dominatrix gear and peacock tails, kohl-eyed singer Alison Goldfrapp is understated and demure in a floor-length plain black dress and Heidi plaits. The occasion has even prompted a rare on-stage appearance from the other half of the duo, reclusive studio alchemist Will Gregory, who sits at a keyboard flanked by backing singers and a string section.

The evening's semi-acoustic format leaves no place for most of the band's electro-stomp singles, and they play nothing at all from their last album, 2010's Head First. Instead, they major on material from 2008's Seventh Tree, playing all but one track from an album that found them channelling a bucolic, luxuriant strain of folk.

It's hardly Goldfrapp Unplugged – Gregory's thrumming synth pulse still runs through everything – but it is quietly lovely. The ambient dream-pop of A&E and Clowns is ethereal and unsettling. Goldfrapp is in fine voice, veering from a sultry murmur on the trip-hop-inclined Cologne Cerrone Houdini to a startling soprano on old song Utopia. The sole new track, Melancholy Sky, is a skeletal and pensive John Barry-like reverie that implies their forthcoming album may tend towards the elegantly introspective. It is a tantalising prospect: maybe Goldfrapp should go to church more often.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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