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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

Alison Goldfrapp, Roundhouse, London, 1st March 2024

The year: 2024.

The place: The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London's best large venue by a country (or should that be city?) mile. Capacity: 3,300.

The action takes place in a rammed, sold-out venue, full of music fans and hipsters, waiting expectantly for the Dr Who of electro-disco-pop - Alison Goldfrapp. Each Doctor Who is the same but different - different styles, wildly varying outfits (but always stylish and cool...ok, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, may be not...) and different energies. They could be mischievous, witty, dark, broken, lovelorn, guilty, eccentric, warrior, wounded, the lost, effervescent - the list goes on,

Alison Goldfrapp is the same - will we get the pop queen, the soundtrack chanteuse, the electro-glamrock-dominatrix, the fey folkstress? It's an appropriate comparison - she is a Doctor (she has an honorary doctorate Music from the University of Portsmouth). So, for this review, she's Dr Goldfrapp. She may also be a Timelord, but I can't prove that right now. The Doctor is soon in the (round)house and is very much regenerated in pop dance form.

Her companion this evening is Mala Ika; Mala isn’t a stood-up bride, a police-kissogram, or cantankerous robot dog. She's a French DJ and Producer, born and raised in Guadeloupe. She is a founder of the Media Beweird and Label Weirdos Records labels, and an exponent of excellent electronic music. Due to some difficulties finding our pre-gig venue (thanks Google Maps!), we miss her, but we get here in time to grab a beer, and take our place standing up on the second level.

I've never stood up on the second level, behind the seats. It's actually great - the space isn't that large, but we have a fabulous view and room to move and even dance. I will be booking more tickets up there for future gigs.

The Doctor takes the stage to In Electric Blue from her debut solo album, The Love Invention, one of five new tracks that open the show. It's a strong move and shows confidence in her new solo career. She's been singing with other artists since appearing with Orbital 30 years ago and with Goldfrapp, her duo with Will Gregory, since 1999. It's admirable to step away from a band after 20+ years at 56 and go solo - I've lots of respect for this.

The Doctor's new companion on this journey is Richard X, who has helmed songs for Sugababes, Liberty X (the mighty Being Nobody), Kelis, and more. He's a big proponent of the mash-up (Freak Like Me is genius). He's also a massive fan of The Human League and Kraftwerk - he feels a logical and good fit for the Doctor's new adventure.

The show is solid, but from our birdseye view, the audience only really gets going when the Goldfrapp tunes kick in. The first five songs are great, but I guess the familiarity isn't there yet. Alison's stage banter is a bit odd, a bit stilted, hammy even. It's a big show, so I don't blame her. And there is an awkward plug for her merch, especially the scarves they are selling.

My major gripe about the show is the merch - I know artists have to fund themselves through different routes these days, and I often buy records at gigs so I know the artist is getting a little extra cash. But £20 for a mug, £50 for a t-shirt and over £100 for a scarf is just insanely pricey. More the behaviour of the Master or Missy, rather than the Doctor.

A run of three Goldfrapp songs and a collaboration with Röyksopp (Impossible) sees the crowd more energised, dancing and letting go. Alison prowls the stage, dressed like some sci-fi, sparkly black-clad matador - she is supremely cool. She is accompanied by two keyboard players (who occasionally strap on "key-tars" and join her up front), plus a drummer who, despite being dressed like he is on the way to a dodgy 80s rave in Essex, is superb throughout.

There are two dancers, who look almost identical from our distance, who perform throughout the set. They are graceful, cool, but somehow disconnected from Alison. They are just there, rather than part of the show. I don't quite get what having them on stage is trying to achieve. No disrespect to them - their performance is great throughout - there is just no relationship between what they do and what the Doctor does. 

It's only at the encore where things seem to really hang together. The Doctor returns in a new puffed up, ruffled, sparkly black jacket. Again, she shows real confidence in the new material, opening and closing the encore with tracks from The Love Invention (Gatto Gelato and Fever - two of its strongest tracks). They sandwich two of her best known electro-glamrock-tastic songs from her old band - Ooh La La and Strict Machine. The four songs work well together and this is by far the best part of the show. The dancers are more in sync with the Doctor - they move together rather than previously it felt like very separate performances.

The Gallifreyan Goldfrapp experience is good, but it's like the first series of a new Doctor, bedding down their regeneration, getting used to a new takes time. But there is lots of promise here. 

Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link below), x

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