UK Songstress packs big voice in small frame

With as much notoriety surrounding her name in press, UK indie darling Ellie Goulding had a lot of work to do in living up to the hype. But if her set at Venue has anything to say for her credibility, Goulding is proving that she's doing everything in her power to not only live up to the name people have been hearing about, but exceeding the expectations surrounding one of Europe's hottest musical exports.

On record, Goulding reads like a bookish yet exploratory young writer, who just happens to be armed with a magnificent set of pipes. Each song lends itself well to the electro-pop vibe she seems to be interested in, while exploring the options of mass-market appeal in terms of upping the radio realm's ante of an otherwise static repertoire. Any one song on her debut Lights has the single-worthy quality, which pays off in a huge way in live context. And like fresh young performers before her, Goulding does her job of making these songs come to life in a live setting.

Venue was packed with lyric-savvy fans, not bad for a performer relatively unknown on the pop culture scale this side of the water. With tickets sold out weeks in advance for this gig, it was one of the much-awaited shows of the season. Venue may have even been a bit small for the singer, on the brink of explosion, so it was a nice reward for those in the house to see such a bright talent in the intimate venue. Outfitted in a cut-off t-shirt with a glittery skeletal ribcage over outrageously short shorts and floral tights, Goulding admitted her choice was a new one.

Beginning her set with the sultry "Under The Sheets", Goulding wasted no time getting the crowd moving, with her messy lavender-blonde hair moving like a wild lion's mane. Backed by a slew of well-dressed uptown British men in tight-fitting trousers and vests, Goulding definitely still stood out with her fuschia lipstick highlighting her emotional vocalizing over each high note. "We're in a mess, babe," she howled in high octave, all the while banging the solo snare drum she had stationed beside her floral-accented microphone stand. The atmospheric guitar that began her second tune of the evening, "This Love Will Be Your Downfall", had the heart-wrenched crowd hypnotized and nearly out-powering Goulding herself, considering each word was mass memorized and belted out in unison.

Goulding, a natural born charmer, worked the crowd, seemingly excited about her first performance in Vancouver. Regularly, she would stare up at the ceiling mid-song, coming off contemplative yet self-aware. The Sunday night show came off like a weekend-starter, with Goulding leading the troops saying, "We're gonna make Sunday into a Friday night," causing the crowd to erupt in a massive cheer. Despite Goulding's legions of sing-along-ready fans, the crowd was the one aspect of the show that kept it from being magical. The chatty drunk girls and disapproving 'too-cool' club-goers who loudly attempted to talk over Goulding have sadly become a Vancouver special. But even if those close to the stage were attempting to break the show down, Goulding and her band marched on, heads held high.

Drinking out of a paper coffee cup, Ellie comes off as a level-headed no-nonsense kind of girl, sharing cute yet uncalculated anecdotes that come off as excited and unrehearsed. But most of her set was driven entirely by great pop music, including the banger "Your Biggest Mistake", during which Goulding, apparently unaware, sneers her face at a tasteless ex-lover, with the committed half of the crowd gripping their chests, shouting along to the hook, "What a waste, what a waste, what a waste."

Mid-set, most of the band left, save Goulding and wingman Chris Ketley, who led the keys through a stripped-down version of "Wish I Stayed". The beautiful rendition of the tune really displayed the character and range of Goulding as a vocalist, which is more apparent here than in the up-tempo electronic-laced tracks that filled up most of the set as well as her album. This is one of the great things about Goulding, as a musician and a performer: to highlight different assets in different parts of the set is an advantage, helping to add to the answer of such a mixed crowd, displaying a variety of appeals. In her cover of the Elton John classic "Your Song", Goulding lets her voice take the back seat to the melody itself, focusing on letting go in the moment, kneeling down on the stage with her eyes closed, almost prayer-like. Yet in the doubled-up encore, she let her inner sasspot out on "Human", which she preceeded with requesting "every single person in the room getting sexy." In the finale, her current calling card "Starry Eyed" served as an excellent wrap-up of all her skills: kooky vocalizations, pretty and toned versus, and a catchy dance-worthy chorus.

Goulding's pretty near to having it all, and at a sprite 24, it will be interesting to watch where she takes her sound and her career. "Lights", is well-rounded yet cohesive. Her next steps, which included a performance at the Royal Wedding and a big-profile showcase on SNL. Here's hoping she can come up with more power-pop tunes to make another appearance, just so I can be that guy who says "Oh, did you see her last time she was here?"

//By JJ Brewis 
Summer Arts and Culture Correspondent

//photo credit Louie Banks

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