Alison Goldfrapp is a fabulous creature. She lives and works with ambiguity, in that creative space between the expected and the surprising. Her world premiere of ' Tales of Us' at last year's Manchester International Festival and her recent curated exhibition at the Lowry has given her fans in the North some very special insights into the woman and her work.

She is a collaborator and an innovator, a performer and an artist, a film maker and a musician. She creates with others, from Will Gregory, her long time musical partner, to Lisa Gunning her partner and film maker. She draws out the best, as could be seen in her choices for the curated exhibition at the Lowry, the first time a performer as creator had been invited to exhibit. She is an art school graduate as well as a musician. Her exhibition explored themes of myth and folklore, outsider art and symbolism, transformation and metamorphosis. Identity was examined through fairy tales, good and evil, animal and human, magic, mystery and make believe. Art imitates life as these themes run through her fourteen year career. As an exhibition it was literally spellbinding, and so is she.

So there we were, waiting for the concert to begin, literally enthralled.

I am always intrigued to know who chooses the incidental music, played before a concert. Chanteurs and chanteuses, Nico, Stevie Nicks and Nancy Sinatra, Nick Drake, Lee Hazlelwood, Peggy Lee. Some great choices of songs that surely must have been intentional.

Goldfrapp came on stage to 'Peter and the Wolf', with its associations of folk tale, childhood, musical instruments and animal and human identities.

“Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin,” said the narrator.

And they did. What would be her guise? This version of Alison was the sophisticated and slightly decadent Dietrich blonde, with power dressed shoulders and a black batwing sleeved top. Echoes of Klara Korstalova's ceramic sculpture in her exhibition. The beauty of the vampiress. She's a woman who can rock a horse's tail, not a pony tail, who can tell a fairy tale or a dark legend. Sexy and folky, pierrot harlequin clown or sophisticate, opera or electronica. She's glamorous in the true sense of the word, bewitching, shifting between worlds we recognise as we follow where she leads us with her fairy tale trail.

The first part of the concert was almost subdued in mood, little movement , no conversation. She gave us songs from 'Tales of Us', her latest album and also a film concept. Many of these new songs are based on characters from literature, reimagined by her. Her breathy voice and beautiful vocals were supported and enhanced by the band of musicians on stage, crescendoes of strings and harmonies. Words are important, but she uses her voice as an instrument, with her amazing range and fearless delivery. Dramatically simple lighting suddenly transformed into amazing colours and effects, rainbows and primary colours, shifting the mood. Suddenly everyone was on their feet and dancing to the music. Shared memories, personal histories. The lushness of the music became the favourites of the past, ‘Ride a White Horse’, ‘Oh La La’, ‘Strict Machine’. She wasn't afraid to take people back to where they had started with her.

It was a fantastic concert, a beautifully crafted show, with music, lights, her presence and her wonderful voice delivering all the audience could have asked for.

At the end I heard her say, “Gorgeous” as she looked out over the crowd. We were her mirror, reflecting back our delight.

On the tram home I heard people humming her songs, discussing where to hang the newly acquired signed poster, saw some sharing a post-concert tender hug.

True magick.

Photos by Melanie Smith

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Commenting On: Lowry, Manchester, 27/3/2014 - Goldfrapp

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