Ellie Goulding, O2 Academy, Glasgow **
Like many of her pop peers, Ellie Goulding bit the bullet and released a new album during last year’s lockdown, knowing its commercial chances were compromised because she couldn’t tour. The album topped the charts regardless and, better late than never, she is debuting it live almost in its entirety, opening her Glasgow show with the first three tracks, which journeyed from the sombre piano and subtle tremulous strings of Start via the gradually building bassline and tasteful clubby throb of Power to the spacious R’n’b pop of How Deep Is Too Deep, with Goulding over-reaching in her efforts at a more soulful vocal delivery.
Her reedy voice is not cut out for passion so she was caught between a sigh and a soft place, relying on the manicured sturm-und-drang backing track of Powerful, her collaboration with Major Lazer, to whip up the appearance of drama, while the mild disco house pop of New Love, about connection on the dancefloor, was the sound of a Thursday night warm-up for the weekend.
Climate crisis slogans flashed on the backdrop – at one point during a smoochy ballad, which likely wasn't about global warming – without specific comment from Goulding, a UN environment ambassador who has conceived this Brightest Blue tour to be as low impact as possible. By her own admission, she is "not much of a talker". But her lack of stage presence didn’t deter the screams of devotion from her younger female fans who can identify with or aspire to her sweet, polite girl-next-door-with-the-lovely-hair persona.
Their enthusiasm was rewarded in the second half of the set with a scattering of Goulding’s biggest hits, including the singalong Calvin Harris collaboration I Need Your Love, the doe-eyed Love Me Like You Do and similarly teenaged romance of Anything Could Happen. However, only the perky attitude of the Jamaican dancehall-tinged Worry About Me bucked the trend for vanilla sounds and sentiments.
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