The early concerts were available at Netflix all along, and I finally got to blare the performance at near deafening levels, uncompressed. Sound quality was improved, and yet the mix character changed somewhat. The Internet compression seems to accentuate the main voice, rendering her louder than the band. In the original uncompressed versions, she tends to float in and out of the mix, which is of a higher fidelity all around.
I’ve been gushing over Alison Goldfrapp for as long as I can remember. She’s the best, a vocal seductress with the breathiest, most sensual voice alive. She wraps her soul around every syllable, which are pitch-perfect and from a bottomless well. I still can hardly believe her immaculate performance at Somerset House, 2003.
But first, there are two concerts included in the film. The first, at Shepherd’s Bush, was from December 2001, and she is visibly less certain than later. From 2001 to 2003 she blossomed and became an unstoppable diva. It is then she amped up the volume and the tempo, returning to glam rock influences and disco, but always twisting them around in her personal fantasies.
By 2003 the band had come together notably with Angie Pollock on keyboards and backing vocals, Rowan Oliver on drums, and Charlie Jones on bass. They are phenomenal musicians. And Davide Rossi’s violin is scorching. There are no guitars in this concert, but it’s rich and full and precise.
The reason that the Somerset House performance is so legendary is the interplay of slow and fast tracks. The show builds with layer after layer in the song progression. Alison delivers her entire soul into the slow tracks, which open the show, three in a row. Still others follow later. Half the tracks are the best versions in existence, better than the albums. By the end of the first song, Deep Honey, my own guts inevitably turn to jelly–coincidentally a lyric in the second song, Human. This incredible dynamic command of the music, from the softest whisper to the most powerful aria, is why Alison is untouchable as a pop artist.
You can throw the rest into the dustbin of history, but keep Goldfrapp alive.
The Somerset concert still only represents a small fraction of her eventual hits. But it’s got some damned good ones.
The most Goldfrapp track I can think of is Tiptoe. She may agree, as the song is actually the DVD’s menu soundtrack, playing almost all of it before the film begins. Tiptoe is a driving dance tune, but it’s also two different songs in one. It changes by the end into something else. At start it’s rave synth, fast-tempo, disco. At the bridge, a wall of synth noise smacks you in the face. It’s also in second-person. This opening segment contrasts against the ending, which is in first-person. The fast opening describes a lost love, someone so good he–or she–was unforgettable. So unforgettable, the first-person ending is all heartbreak, tears falling in another time frame. She’s woven the two styles and two narratives into one exceptional pop track suitable for a festival, or a dark bedroom. It’s magic. She’s magical.
But hell, you can only talk about music for so long, and you just need to play it.
Go here: Goldfrapp on Spotify
The stand-up comedy novel.