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Date 10/09/13
Country USA
Town New York City
Venue Beacon Theatre
Support with the Wordless Music Orchestra
Setlist 01. Jo
02. Annabel
03. Drew
04. Ulla
05. Alvar
06. Simone
07. Stranger
08. Laurel
09. Clay
10. Paper Bag
11. Clowns
12. Little Bird
13. Lovely Head
14. Road To Somewhere
15. A&E
16. Caravan Girl
Reviews Hush of a Duo and 20-Piece Orchestra
Goldfrapp Brings ‘Tales of Us’ to Beacon Theater

“You better run for your life,” Alison Goldfrapp sang in “Jo,” the first song of the English band Goldfrapp’s concert at the Beacon Theater on Tuesday night. She crooned the words like a lullaby, over a barely swaying rhythm, with her voice swathed in sustained chords from a string orchestra. In its serenely elusive foreboding, the music was a world away from the pumping, simplistic electronic dance-pop songs, like “Ooh La La,” that gave Goldfrapp its biggest hits.
Ms. Goldfrapp’s voice — breathy, reedy, intent — has been the only constant in the music of Goldfrapp, her duo with the musician Will Gregory. Through six studio albums, everything around her voice has repeatedly changed: Goldfrapp albums have been folky, orchestral and electronic, ambiguous and blatant, crisply danceable and moody and ethereal.
Goldfrapp’s new album, “Tales of Us,” is an ethereal one. Its 10 songs — nine titled with first names, one called “Stranger” — are hushed and unhurried, often beginning with sparse acoustic guitar picking or a lone keyboard and gradually taking on a halo of sustained orchestral strings.
The lyrics are cryptic and imagistic, musing on love, desire, gender and Nature. Ms. Goldfrapp explained that one of them, “Annabel,” was based on Kathleen Winter’s novel, “Annabel,” about a hermaphrodite who’s raised as a boy but dreams of being a girl; another, “Simone,” was about a mother who “discovers her wicked daughter in bed with her lover.” Both were delicate, meditative songs that seethed within.
The concert, Goldfrapp’s only United States appearance this year, was part of the Wordless Music series, and Goldfrapp’s own band was accompanied by the Wordless Music Orchestra: for this occasion, a 20-piece string ensemble. The arrangements could hover impressionistically, pulse with the metronomic hypnosis of Minimalism or sweep into the cinematic crescendos of spy movies and spaghetti westerns. Goldfrapp’s electronics hadn’t disappeared; the band blended synthetic and manipulated sounds with the acoustic ones. But the rise and fall of the music sounded natural, not digital.

Goldfrapp has mounted some glittery dance-pop extravaganzas on past tours. But at the Beacon, all was calm elegance. Ms. Goldfrapp, in a black pantsuit with its sleeves billowing in the breeze of a fan, sang with her face in shadow and her blonde hair aglow. When she did raise a hand for the final note of “Clay,” the album’s closing song, it was a rare dramatic gesture.
For the first half of the concert, Goldfrapp played nine of the 10 songs on “Tales of Us,” omitting “Thea,” the one song on the album with a booming dance beat. Then it returned with older songs that could also benefit from the string section: two from its 2000 debut album, “Felt Mountain,” and five from its 2008 album, “Seventh Tree.” Those were a little more openly retro, hinting at Burt Bacharach and James Bond movies — and showing, by contrast, how much more quietly mysterious Goldfrapp can be now.

By Jon Pareles, The New York Times.

 
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