Alison Goldfrapp is all windswept hair and shiny silver pyjama suit. Appearing on stage, backlit and washed in smoky red and blue, in the cold industrial hollow of Sydney’s warehouse-turned-music venue Carriageworks, she seems less like a rockstar and more like a mysterious angel from the space age.
Carriageworks is the perfect kind of space for the kind of alternative, danceable synth pop that electronic duo Goldfrapp are most well-known for. The last time I saw them live was at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre – a beautiful old venue in its own right, but not exactly dance-friendly, with its ornate internal architecture and antique fittings, and a bizarre choice of space for a band with a back catalogue dominated by strutting synths that compel you to get out of your chair and pull shapes.
That was the tour for Seventh Tree, an album that now, in the shadow of the duo’s latest release, Silver Eye, seems like something of a whimsical folksy detour. Indeed, not a single song from Seventh Tree was played during this show, which seemed, like Silver Eye, to cement a return to the kind of 80s futurism epitomised by albums Black Cherry and Supernature.
They mostly stick to this side of their repertoire for this show – a one-off exclusive for Sydney’s Vivid festival. The performance is, in many ways, a tightly structured compilation of high notes: breaking the ice with the eerie and glorious Utopia, followed by the haunting Lovely Head. The wash then turns to strobing and the band launch into Silver Eye’s highly danceable Anymore and Black Cherry’s guaranteed crowd-pleaser Train, followed by standout tracks from the new album, Ocean and Moon in Your Mouth.
Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory may both be firmly on the other side of 50, but the only place this is evident is in experience: the show is gloriously slick; the sound is clear and they have perfected the art of delivering a set with natural peaks and ebbs while maintaining the energy of the crowd.
Ride a White Horse closes out the main set but an encore follows quickly. If there are any missteps, it’s beginning the show’s coda with the reflective Black Cherry, possibly the sharpest drop in energy over the night. It’s picked back up again quickly, however, with an urgent, almost frantic, rendition of Head First’s Shiny and Warm and the euphoric Ooh La La, before the opening bars of Strict Machine crescendo and splinter into a floor-shaking blasts of noise. It’s a cathartic end to an electrifying show.