I’ve not been to the Octagon in a long time – and like many other university “halls” that are used as larger gig venues, it is cavernous, soulless, and as a friend pointed out, the acoustics are really not good.
Also not good were support act Hot Chip. I saw them described somewhere as funky electro influenced by Stevie Wonder and Prince. The reality is five middle-aged men playing a messy funk hybrid that holds no interest whatsover.
After a bit of a wait following that, Alison Goldfrapp follows the band onstage in a sweep of pink and black. What becomes clear is that the band – and the stage, for that matter – is unquestionably hers. Things get off to a mellow start with sweet sweep of Utopia and the unusual vocal theatrics of Lovely Head. Not sure whether it was the unfamiliarity of many with two of the band’s oldest songs or just the venue, but what did show was an almost total lack of atmosphere.
Or maybe it is something of the icy demeanour of the band, and in particular Alison herself. Little is said to the crowd through the show, and in the main Goldfrapp songs are generally somewhat insular.
After a somewhat slow start, things do pick up quite well. Tiptoe is just as odd live as on record, while the sleazy chug of Train is just as dirty. Koko and Slide In worked well back-to-back from the new album, the former sounding far better live, while the latter is surely a candidate for the next single. Still not sure on the stuttering You Never Know, or the slightly cheesy Fly Me Away (although the video for that on the DVD version of Supernature is insane), but the big surprise was the stomp of Satin Chic, which from being a somewhat fluffy throwaway on the album became a monster of a track live. One unknown track in the set, presumably a recent B-side, with a really shiny rainbow-based lightshow – and the track wasn’t bad, either…!
The atmosphere finally actually emerged into something resembling a gig once the “hits” were rolled out at the end. First up was a supercharged, and extended run through Ride A White Horse (still the best track by far on Supernature), followed by the retro-singalong of Ooh La La, which at long last got some movement from the zombie-like crowd. First encore was a strange one – the sweeping, cinematic Black Cherry, which was something of a surprise to hear, followed by the one song I really don’t like on the new album – Number One. A second encore unsurprisingly brought the dark sexuality of Strict Machine, stretched out over six fantastic minutes. “Sheffield, you’ve been great” were Alison’s slightly hollow parting words. Not a patch on her…