GOLDFRAPP - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 7/4/22

Published on 16 April 2022 at 16:57

By Paul Laird

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Happiness is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the  path that leads to it…”  

(Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism


“Join our group and you will find  

Harmony and peace of mind  

Make it better  

We’re here to welcome you”  

(“Happiness”, Goldfrapp


I know exactly what the next record by certain acts and artists is going to sound like, not just  before I hear it, but before the artist themselves have even written it. I’m not a psychic, a medium  or a clairvoyant, it’s just that I’ve heard their last record…and the one before that…and the one  before that…and they all sound, well, the same. Not just similar, but the same. 


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 


They have an audience and that audience doesn’t want things to change, they just want to hear  things that sound like the things they already like. Fine. People like what they like and some  people don’t want to be challenged or to step outside of the world they have carefully constructed  for themselves. 


Goldfrapp are not for you. 


There is no way of knowing what the next Goldfrapp album will sound like. 


Over more than 20 years they have delivered electronic, pop, music hall, trip-hop, glam rock,  pastoral, folk and classic English pop that sounds like it was made anywhere, and everywhere,  other than England. Maybe in “A Field In England”, such are the dizzying, disorientating,  disquieting, effects of so much of what they do. 


For me it started with an appearance on “Later with Jools Holland” in April of 2001. “It’s a strange  day, no colours or shapes, no sound in my head, I forget who I am”. That was it. I needed  nothing more. I knew that this was a band I could give myself to completely. Trip-hoppin’ beats,  strings, romance, drama and, crucially, honesty. Everything about it was pure. The lighting, the  clothes, the sounds, the words. Precious. 


Tonight is the first time I have seen them live. I don’t know why. The noughties were a strange  time for me. I lost myself in a post Britpop fug. I had married at the end of the previous decade, I  was devoting more and more of myself to work and religion…silly, silly, boy. I still bought records.  I still loved music. But I was disconnecting in many ways from many of the things that had  defined me. I wasn’t sure who I was… 


There is a string quartet, there is a guitar being strummed by former Strangelove and Suede chap,  Alex Lee, there is a bass, keyboards and technical wonkery. And at the centre of it all, maybe at  the centre of everything, is Alison.  


Without making a sound, without moving, she captures the hearts and souls of everyone in the  room from the moment she positions herself at the front of the stage. A star. The embodiment of  charisma. A force of nature. She has no need to bellow or fist pump, she only needs to be  present and we are all with her. 


This is meant to be a return to the start of the Goldfrapp story. The evening dedicated to “Felt  Mountain”, the sort of thing so many bands do…a run through a classic album, but where other  bands, other albums, rely on nostalgia, rose tinted spectacles and an audience willing to forgive  the filler in order to bask in the flashes of killer, Goldfrapp can play something that is more than 20  years old and make it sound like the future of music. Nothing tonight feels old, there is no room  for nostalgia when what is being presented is so thrilling. This is the genesis story, but it is also  the book of revelation. The template for who, and what, Goldfrapp are and would be is writ large  in every beat. 


There is, of course, something cinematic about “Felt Mountain”. The score for the greatest  modernist film noir never made. Kubrickian care and mystery in every groove. Alison as both  Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. But there is no need for the flash, bang and sleight of hand of  modern cinema…no need to fill every moment with meaningless dialogue and effects, the story is  strong enough to tell itself. Hitchcock would have adored it. 


At times tonight my heart doesn’t just skip a beat, it stops. At the end of “Human” I am in tears, it  is one of the most powerful and affecting things I have ever seen at a live performance by a band.  It feels like someone has reached into my chest to caress my broken heart. The drama, the  passion, the beauty of it kills me, momentarily, and I am only resurrected by the roar of the crowd.  



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