If you’re looking for evidence of how quickly Ellie Goulding has climbed up the pop mountain, arriving half an hour before the venue even opens would give you the answer. There is a queue snaking its way along the Brighton seafront outside Digital containing as many, if not more people, than were in attendance at her show in the same town last September (reviewed here). Yet Ellie isn’t due on stage for another two and a half hours. She’s becoming a popular girl. Goulding has climbed vertically from base camp blog darling to peak the BBC Sound of 2010 / Brit Critics Choice awards (and not forgetting topping our own Ones To Watch list ). Not only that but she has delivered on the hype in sales terms with a number one album and a top five single. There has been the inevitable backlash from critics and a number of bloggers, but the public have voted with their cash.
Goulding’s performance tonight justifies the initial hype and shows why she appeals to punters. She is confident and assured, yet never over the top, a few months of playing shows enabling her to develop to a higher level. Her face contorts with emotional physicality as she sings; her voice pure, sweet and often passionately quivering. She stays mainly centre stage, strumming an acoustic guitar nestled against her sleeveless skeleton print tee shirt, just occasionally shimmying left or right when freed from guitar duties.
Opening with the beautiful Lights which journeys from a piece of minimalist ethereal electro to a full bloodied arms aloft dance-pop tune, her set ranges through her debut album, carefully mixing the studio trickery and electronic gloss with a more organic and honest live sound. She strips back Wish I Stayed to just guitar and piano and a cover version of Roscoe by Midlake gives another tick in the authenticity box. It’s certainly not all about virtuous musicality though - most of this set is high on pop values; good, catchy, easy-on-the-ear, entertaining songs played well to a room full of people with just enough visual engagement to stop the eye wandering. There are screams of delight when she whacks a single drum with some finesse on the synth drenched Salt Skin and these screams continue as she closes, inevitably, with hit single Starry Eyed.
It’s only during Your Biggest Mistake, a more mundane music-by-numbers tune that there is a slight mid set lull, but considering that she only has one album to her name, this brief moment can be forgiven. Ellie Goulding may not engage the sort of people who can only listen to music as a form of intellectual academia, but as the sold out crowd who chant her name for an encore demonstrate, she’s doing something right, and for the most part this live show was appealingly enjoyable and engaging.