LIVE REVIEW: Alison Goldfrapp, Boys’ Shorts @ The Glasshouse, Gateshead (22.02.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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If we’re honest, most of us would have preferred Alison Goldfrapp’s tour opener to have fallen on a Friday or Saturday evening. Those wishes, however, must pale compared to the longing experienced by support act Boys’ Shorts. This Greek duo’s mishmash of electronic sounds is tailor-made for moments of late night/early morning club revelry – not for chilly Thursdays in seated concert halls, with most their audience stumbling in having barely finished work.

It’s an unfortunate hand; though equally, the pair offer little for early comers to latch onto. There are isolated bright spots – airy techno standout Fantastic; a satisfying disco remix of Pet Shop Boys’ Love Comes Quickly – yet overall their set is characterised by a chronic dearth of fresh or adventurous ideas, compounded by their failure to capitalise on those fleeting spurts of momentum. It may have done the job over a standard 30 minutes, but this extended hour-long slot serves only to lay bare their limitations, as underdeveloped beats and tired genre-mashing electro tropes coalesce in a seemingly endless string of tedious loops and creative dead-ends.

By stark contrast, Alison Goldfrapp excels in both set-building and commanding a hall which – through circumstance rather than lack of enthusiasm – is conspicuously lacking energy. While last year’s dates leant predominantly on solo debut The Love Invention, this 2024 curtain-raiser features more or less a 50/50 split of solo material and established Goldfrapp classics. It’s an ideal equilibrium; shamelessly crowd-pleasing, while simultaneously presenting a comprehensive, convincing showcase of the celebrated vocalist’s current ventures.

Released last May, The Love Invention is an album that’s found its audience without pulling up too many trees. If its pulsing, dancefloor-primed electro-pop could at times feel overfamiliar, though, its incorporation into Alison’s live set is as impressive as it is seamless. Pulsing singles So Hard So Hot and Love Invention, for instance, are deployed swiftly in an early show of assuredness, while a knockout one-two of The Beat Devine’s mid-tempo, love-drunk strut and Gatto Gelato’s irresistibly funky acid-synth grooves may even mark the evening’s high point.

At the very least, the latter pair kickstart an imperious closing strait, in which Alison and her cohort – two synth/keytarists, a percussionist, and two dancers – delight with a succession of Goldfrapp’s biggest hits. On another night, such a spectacular finale (complete with long-expected costume change) would surely have transformed the seated sections into an impromptu dancefloor – yet on one of those occasions where The Glasshouse can still feel a tad stuffy, Alison reads the room perfectly, offering her best without demanding the world in return. Undeterred and armed with a potent batch of solo bangers, it’s illustrative of a singer not only highlighting her place among British pop’s post-millennium icons, but also thriving amidst a fresh artistic chapter.

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