Ellie Goulding – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Tuesday April 6.
Given all that has happened to her since the start of this year – the BBC’s “Sound of 2010” award, the “Critics’ Choice” BRIT award, the Top Five single, the Number One album – success could easily have swollen Ellie Goulding’s head. And given the sheer scale of that success, she could easily have swapped the intimacy of the Rescue Rooms for a much larger venue, while still pulling in a capacity crowd.
But instead of pressing ever harder on the accelerator pedal, this commendably unaffected 23 year old singer-songwriter has sensibly chosen to develop her performing skills at a rather more measured pace. It has been less than a month since her last visit to Nottingham – supporting Passion Pit at Rock City – and despite the best efforts of the hype machine to turn her into an instant superstar, it is clear that she still needs time to find her bearings as a live performer.
Perhaps it was just the symptoms of her newly acquired chest infection kicking in, but Ellie spent a good deal of her hour-long set looking somewhat anxious and ill at ease. “You’re awfully quiet”, she kept muttering – and with good reason, as the whoops and shrieks that greeted the end of each song tended to die away quickly, leaving an uneasy silence in the room. Although an atmosphere of good-natured curiosity prevailed, few amongst the crowd could yet be counted as diehard fans, and so Ellie had to work hard to win us over.
In this respect, perhaps the weight of our expectations worked against her, creating an unhelpful level of extra pressure. But you also sensed that she was constrained by the glossy layers of pop production that have been added to her compositions, swamping her vocals and hemming her in rhythmically. Tellingly, she often sounded at her best when the pre-recorded backing tracks were switched off, and when her backing band were at their most subdued. At these moments, the self-consciousness slipped away, allowing glimpses of a more tender and heartfelt performance style to shine through. But at other times, you couldn’t help worrying that Ellie Goulding’s sudden success could turn out to be her worst enemy.