Live: Goldfrapp Bring Sniffles, Clown Blanket to the Beacon Theater
The Pink Knight
photos by Gabi Porter
Tuesday, April 29
Alison Goldfrapp has the sniffles. And you know what happens when you have the sniffles—you’re cranky, dealing with fatigue and just the slightest annoyances will throw you into a tizzy. But also when you have a cold, you like to tell everyone how awful you feel and how you’re just weathering through life as a mere formality, a tactic that you know will excuse you if you’re not performing up to snuff. Alison told us several times she had a cold; the first time, it was a cute little window into her personal life. But moments later, at the very end of the breathy “Road To Somewhere,” she just exclaims “fuck,” after burying her face into her hands. She bolts over to the front of house monitor guy and gives him a stern lecture about something. It’s okay, Alison. We know that Airborne stuff is gimmicky, too.
Had she not said anything, no one would have noticed any difference in her voice; it’s just as majestic as it’s always been, nearly flawless in its ability to project beauty and sunshiny radiance. Which is what Goldfrapp’s going for with their new material—straying from that cold, mechanical synth-club sound that’s gained them notoriety in meatpacking district warehouses and Kenneth Cole launch parties. But it’s probably really strange and frustrating for Goldfrapp fans to see the “mrs.” in a theater such as the Beacon. The more psychedelic pop style of Seventh Tree material is perfect fodder for sitting down, but no one wants to. But there’s nothing to dance to, nothing to wiggle around at, and besides—those seats are pretty tight, and uncomfortable for such things.
So the new Goldfrapp forces you to take a seat and just gawk at her. In doing so, you’d notice: she’s just not that invested in new tunes. Neither is her audience. She stands rather listlessly during “A&E,” only raising her arms to reveal herself in Batman-like posture with this clown blanket she wears. The Pink Knight. The real problem was not her cold; it was that the bass drowned out everything around her. The Polyphonic Spree-ish ode to good times “Happiness” had their violin guy giving it his all, even coming to the forefront of the stage—but it was inaudible. It became weird; you were watching a guy play an instrument that had no sound. Imagine going to a baseball game where the game was being played sans ball. That’s what it felt like, a lot of the time.
Alison only becomes animated, animating everyone with her, during those moments of her past. “Number 1” and “Ooh La La” didn’t exactly get any parties started, but for Alison—this is where she feels the most comfortable, even doing the robot at one point—a cheeky nod at the dance diva brand she’s carried for the last several years. Paradoxically, these industrial sized hits were manufactured as gems in those very spaces that the Beacon is not. So it comes off a bit forced, and a bit distant. But such is the nature of those songs, a deliberate point in remoteness. The warmth and glow that encompasses the slow, building pop of a new song such as “Little Birds” is what makes the space a logical setting, but in the context of their catalog and fan-base, it just seemed to annoy everyone, Alison included. What could be an overarching problem: they seem to be having difficulty in translating themselves into anything more than just a band with a bunch of slow tunes that centers around a female vocalist. And the last thing Alison Goldfrapp and her fans want her to be is a “singer-songwriter.” She was here long before ol’ Feist, and besides, they’re totally different and don’t you forget it, so remember that, while you’re sitting there, not having to blow your nose every five minutes, losing your appetite, I can’t believe my luck, totally betting it was that asshole that sneezed on me while I was boarding my flight home from Coachella the other day, oh fuck.
photo by Gabi Porter