Ellie Goulding at Aragon | Review
Going on initial impressions, British crossover songstress Ellie Goulding might seem like an all-too familiar pop music caricature. If American Idol has taught us anything, it’s that those who are all vocals and no personality usually don’t have the staying power to satisfy the changing whims of the mainstream. Yet Goulding deserves more than a once-over. The multi-instrumentalist has got an inherent charm that continues to set her apart from her temporary pop-chart peers, a distinction she made evident at the Aragon Ballroom Tuesday night.
Goulding is more than a vocal powerhouse—the singer’s tremulous soprano is textured with both grit and vulnerability. It has a magnetism that enables her to turn out a cover of Elton John’s “Your Song”—which hasn’t exactly been overlooked throughout history—and make it a fresh hit. Her styling wavers between electro-pop and indie-folk, a spectrum she flitted along fluidly Tuesday night as she jumped onstage to mounting synthesizers, pounded her heart out on the snare drum and even strummed an acoustic guitar while singing the pretty ballad “Guns and Horses.”
The crowd-wide fervor that culminated in an entire house hollering along to the mega-hit “Lights” during the encore was slow in building. The 90-minute set got off to a dull start with softer, slower numbers that failed to capture the attention of the mostly young and female audience. Part of this blame should fall, however, on the curation of the overall performance. Songs like “Explosions” would have benefited from actual backing vocals for the choir-like coos that make the track so powerful in the studio.
Instead, it was just Goulding’s voice meandering along in the big, swallowing acoustics for which the Aragon is unfortunately known. The biggest disappointment was “Anything Can Happen,” a truly infectious single whose hooks lie in its brilliant background trills. Those trills are cut-up samples, however, and as the centerpiece of one of the most-anticipated songs, lacked presence at a live show.
Yet for all the show’s initial missteps, Goulding won us over with her versatile song selection and a voice that, when harnessed, bellowed through to the back of the enormous hall. When she doubled over and hollered into the mic, it snapped us back to attention.