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Ellie Goulding sits in an enviable position within the pop spectrum. It’s slightly left-of-centre pop that can entertain an alternative festival crowd just as much as it can satisfy commercial radio. The results were evident at her sold out Hordern Pavillion show, that drew an eclectic crowd clearly stretching a range of musical preferences.
Bereft of the bells and whistles that come with, say, a Katy Perry show, Goulding relies simply on the strength of her songs and, for the most part, it was wildly successful. For a singer with only two albums to her name, she comfortably led the crowd through the ebbs and flows of a set in excess of 20 songs.
It began in a flurry of hyperactive lights and pulsating drums, that seemed to continue for the duration of the night. An elated Goulding entered the stage with Figure 8, a brooding track that forayed quickly into dub-step. She kept the tempo speeding for the first six songs, rarely stopping to speak, rather focussing on her free-spirited dancing. Her first ever single, Starry Eyes, garnered an excited reaction while the more rhythmic tunes like Animal delivered the kind of dance floor Goulding aims for.
It was quickly apparent during this part that Goulding is an electric performer. She pounces around the stage, covering every angle of the crowd and thrashes away at her drum set, whenever the energy levels needed a boost.
A haunting cover of Alt-J’s Tessellate and Life Round Here by James Blake signalled the beginning of a string of slower songs. Otherwise known as the toilet break, the acoustic part of a pop show is often it’s least interesting but Goulding did a good job of breaking that curse.
Such is the strength of her voice, that even with just an acoustic guitar, her husky tones captivated the audience. During this part she offered up an acoustic version of her contribution to the Divergent soundtrack, Beating Heart and a smartphone lit rendition of Elton John’s Your Song. While they were sweet, they barely held a candle to the bellowing strength of Halcyon track, Explosions.
Signposted by a remix of M.I.A’s Bad Girls, she came out of the torch song part of the set all guns blazing, loading up tune after tune of pop perfection. My Blood’s choir-driven hook sounded crystalline while Only You’s sample-based dance break got the most lively crowd reaction yet.
Excitement was at fever pitch when she a flighty vocal sample introduced Anything Can Happen. The songs climatic, “I know it’s gonna be” break-down was undoubtedly the climax of the night and made the following chorus sound even more euphoric. At this point, it was clear Goulding had hit her stride. Her Calvin Harris-produced track, I Need Your Love followed bringing some EDM grandiose to the room before she closed the set with Lights.
Goulding returned to the stage only moments later to close with her biggest hit to date, Burn. It’s difficult not to get swept up in its utter pop perfection and she gave a perfect delivery, ending it with a hearty electric-guitar solo.
It was a set with a slow-trajectory but she got there in the end, bringing the show to a close with a mighty bang.
(Ellie Goulding live in Sydney 2014/ Photo: Ashley Mar)