Ellie Goulding, the electro-pop songstress whose single “Lights” has been climbing up and down American pop charts this year, just released her second album Halcyon on October 9th. Last month, PopBytes had the opportunity to preview some of the songs during Arjan Timmermans‘ ARTIST #TALK series he did with Ellie. Her sophomore effort sounded darker, more electro, more mature. Vulnerable yet sanguine. The charming naivety of “Lights” seemed to be replaced with a melancholic optimism. Yes, the word optimism sits next to the word melancholic. In interviews, Ellie has stated that Halcyon is a breakup album. But along with this heartbreak she has held on to this hopefulness. This sentiment is a running theme throughout the album and is expertly expressed in her single “Anything Could Happen.” She sings about “letting darkness grow as if we need its palette and we need its color.” But the chorus has this anthem-quality, repeating anything could happen over and over again. It’s Ellie conquering that darkness and reconstructing it into a captivating pop song.
This is why “Anything Could Happen” had the best reception at last Thursday’s Ellie show at Santos Party House in New York City. In that awkward location between Chinatown and Tribeca, six hundred or so people gathered together in one room to celebrate the release of Halcyon. It was rather strange to see “Anything Could Happen” have a better reception than even “Lights.” It surprised a lot of people, even Ellie herself. “You might know this song. But I’m not sure,” she humbly said to the crowd before performing her newest single. It seems America is completely on the Ellie bandwagon. But these were genuine fans who were thirsty for new material from Ellie, new material they seemed to already know every lyric to. PopBytes had only one week to spend with the new album before the show. Though, it has been on constant rotation, it would have been difficult to sing along to every word as if we were at a Dashboard Confessional show. But the crowd at Santos didn’t have a problem at all; they were prepared to sing their electro / emo hearts out.
Ellie was wearing black leather shorts (which she complained were a little too big for her) and a black top with gaudy fishnet sleeves. She was also sporting a new haircut she was still getting used to. She kept pushing it over her face and occasionally checking herself out in the reflection of the drum screen behind her. She looked gorgeous. Her demeanor was equal parts modest and confident. While conversing with the audience she was humble and genuine. But strap a guitar on her shoulder, or put a drum and microphone in front of her and she will rock your world. She opened with “Don’t Say a Word,” the first track off Halcyon. The beginning of the song is so minimal and quiet until these strange ethereal vocals come in. The song doesn’t seem to start until the drum kicks in and her delicate falsetto turns into her solid soprano. It sounds great live. She follows “Don’t Say a Word” with her self-proclaimed favorite song off her new album “My Blood” and it’s stunning.
Like the bird-like “Eee Eee Eee Eee Eee” noises from “Anything Could Happen,” Ellie performs “Only You,” one of the best tracks off her new album, which begins with a distorted vocal she samples throughout the entire song. This song gets the boys in the audience screaming, “I love you Ellie” and “Ellie, you’re hot!” The crowd is so aroused because she is dancing up on stage like a sultry sexy siren. That “starry eyed” electro-pop princess you used to know is now a provocative sexy queen, literally getting down on her knees as she sings “baby I’m on my knees.” The way she handles the drumsticks, holding them up above her head and hitting her tom drum is ridiculously hot. She moves her hips like she’s in a sweaty crowd at Electric Daisy.
The evening was not an entire grindfest. Ellie loves her ballads and she does them well. Though, the ballads on Halcyon have these anthem-quality to them, they almost don’t seem like ballads. “I Know You Care,” is one of the quieter songs she performed along with an acoustic version of “Guns and Horses.” The latter was a stunning departure from the synthesizers and electronic beats. It was a reminder that Ellie is a true musician and not just vocals over pre-recorded blips and bleeps. There she was with an acoustic guitar strapped over her shoulder, strumming away to a song that seems so far from where she is now as an artist.
What would an Ellie Goulding show be without a proper cover song? Ellie wears her influences on her sleeve by working with certain artists (Zedd, Calvin Harris, Flinch) and by covering some of her favorite songs by her favorite musicians. She didn’t play her version of The Weeknd’s “High For This,” but as an encore she did grace the crowd with Elton John’s “Your Song.” Earlier in her set she performed her stunning cover of Active Child’s “Hanging On,” which is a definite highlight on her new album. The vocals on that track are unreal.
After her Elton cover which had everyone, even the dude bros in attendance, belting out every syllable, she asked the crowd to move up close for the next song. Just as you hear the familiar chords of “Starry Eyed” and Ellie has already initiated a sing-a-long, the sound cuts out and she doesn’t know what to do. She sings some vocal jazz warm-ups and sits down for a while feeling a bit awkward. She asks for a guitar, but a few seconds later the sound comes back and she goes for round two. The energy of the crowd seemed at its most intense and euphoric during this last song. They seemed to realize that Ellie would probably never play such a small venue again, especially in NYC. It also seemed that Ellie was aware of this too and as the song came to an end, she turned her back to the crowd and stage dives into the palms of all her fans, knowing that they will support her for as long as they can.