Friday, 23 October 2009

Little Boots + Ellie Goulding @ Brighton Concorde

This gig was partly about looking back over the last year but also about the future. Eleven months ago we first saw Little Boots play at the ICA in London. At that moment she was the buzzing new queen of synth, bringing the pop machine bang up to date. A year is a long time in pop music though. Now there is a new contender to the throne. That contender is Ellie Goulding another pint sized troubadour who uses electronic stuttering chop pop disco sounds, but this time mixes it up with the traditional singer songwriters weapon of acoustic guitar. Having reported on Ms Goulding’s first ever live show with her band here , it’s round two in Brighton.

There’s a look of nervousness on the face of Ellie, or maybe its just concentration. Possibly Goulding isn’t yet used to being a support act and expects something more, and for a while despite her note perfect singing, she doesn’t look particularly happy. A blissed electro folk version of Wish I Stayed with its lyrics of "the crafty smoke that made us choke," is highly accomplished and she even throws in a Midlake cover version to display her indie folk rock credentials, but still she looks less than pleased. Halfway through she directs the crowd “Everyone move a bit, ‘cos I’m moving, you have to move too.” Thankfully for her slowly people do and by the time Starry Eyed closes the set complete with Goulding vigorously beating hell out of an adjacent drum there are even a few people with hands in the air bouncing at the front and Goulding smiles. Job done.

The songs Goulding sings may be blessed with a sweet tone and have a polished synth dance vibe, but there’s passion and grit lurking beneath. As every new music blog keeps saying, she’s likely to have bigger success next year.

In the past we have been critical of Little Boots losing some of what endeared us to her in the first place, namely the indie geekiness which faded to a purer pop sensibility. Tonight Victoria Hesketh reigns some of that back in. There are spacey costumes made from triangular mirrors that reflect the stage lighting, to golden bat wings, sequins, sparkles and hotpants. Her keyboard players are dressed as skeletons. She demonstrates a Casio SK5 keyboard that was purchased from the Aladdin’s cave of second hand shops Snoopers Paradise in Brighton. It plays dog and laser sound samples and makes the audience laugh. She wields a big eighties styled keytar as if she was Howard Jones or Jean Michel Jarre. Then there is her now famous tenori-on and almost inaudible stylophone played during Meddle to complete the set of odd electronic instrumentation. With all this technology there is always a danger that something could go wrong, but tonight it doesn’t Victoria proclaiming Brighton to be “The lucky gig where everything works.”

If all these gadgets sound a little too gimmicky, Little Boots also demonstrates that she can strip it right back, encoring with three songs at the piano. She plays Hands, a new track called Echoes before ending with Stuck on Repeat which switches from piano to the full pulsing Moroder sound that brought Little Boots to public attention in the first place.

Heskeths’ voice throughout is tuneful without ever being exceptional, and when free from her keyboards has enough stage presence to keep the attention for her hour long set. Although the album Hands may not have quite done the business that many pop fans would have liked, and this set does nothing more than be an entertaining evening out, there is still enough here to suggest that should Little Boots be given the chance to develop further, she could become a very interesting proposition in the future.

That my friends, concludes our week of blogs concerning Little Boots. We've got a lot of catching up to do now on other musical matters...

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