January 23, 2013 — ‘Twas a halcyon night from the start, well maybe but for the subzero cold and howling winds that Ellie Goulding‘s fans had to brave while queuing by her cool tour bus in the shadow of shuttered Fenway Park. But judging from the lively crowd that eventually filled Boston’s House of Blues, it seemed that they all thawed out in time.
In fact, a pretty hot show was in store; no Boston Pops-icles concert.
Things got kicked off well enough with a sparkling set by opening power-pop group St. Lucia, an instantly likable band of five with a keen knack for catchy hooks and hearty beats. A great warmup for Ellie, but worth a listen on their own. (Actually, St. Lucia is formally solo recording artist Jean-Philip Grobler with a live touring ensemble. But a nice bunch they all were, hanging around to meet and greet fans at the end of the night.)
It was 9 o’clock sharp and roughly 9 below outside when the fog effects at last rolled in and a knit-capped Ellie G, looking cutely elvish, emerged on stage for 90 fast minutes of music, musings, and a little amusement. Backed by a versatile band of four fine lads (each of whom seemed to play and array of instruments), the 26-year-old British-born song-spinning lass, a multi-talented musician herself, launched into the haunting lead track from her latest album with conviction in her voice and a floor tom at her feet.
And she left no doubt that she meant business when she reached for drumsticks at the chorus and pounded the tom like a war drum.
That lit a fuse and the crowded exploded — the first of many explosions to come.
With the night ignited, Ellie was brilliant, throwing off sparks for song after song. Most of the show had a Halcyon glow, with occasional flares from Lights as well. That included a few acoustic moments when she turned down the flames for a time mid-show, playing solo guitar on “Guns and Horses” and singing “Your Song” to a gentle piano.
But the rest of the evening was all energy. Known to be an avid runner, Ellie moved almost athletically around the stage on more muscular arrangements of “Anything Could Happen”, “I Need Your Love”, “Animal”, and “Starry Eyed”. She was dressed for a workout too, wearing a pair of skin-tight black pants and seriously jacked-up black sneakers to boot.
Having heated up enough after nearly an hour, Ellie finally pulled the plug on the black winter hat on her well-coiffed head. It’s a little bit funny, but before that moment her between-song banter with the audience had come across as muffled and somewhat shy. Very endearing, though it made her hard to follow. I’m sure I missed some bloody good stuff. That changed when she let her renowned blond hair down (“Not my natural color you know,” she offered on her own) and warmed to the room full of Boston yanks.
And this led to a light, unexpected twist for the close of the festivities…
Not long after Ellie yanked her cap, someone somewhere on the floor near the front (a woman, I have to assume) did the same with her bra and tossed it on stage. Without missing a beat, Ellie picked it up and draped it over her microphone stand. But that was just the beginning. For the next few songs, every minute or so, another one would fly in from the crowd and Ellie would add it to her collection. I figure there must have been eight or more, leaving E.G. bemused and a bit confused too. Then she said something cheeky to the girls like “Why don’t you save those for One Direction?”
I suppose they may have been inspired by this lyric from her recent hit:
Stripped to the waist
We fall into the river…
But I’m guessing that song was not written to encourage winter skinny-dipping. Especially in the icy Charles nearby.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure that the bra tossing stopped with the final encore. That, of course, was “Lights”, which she and her band played with fire to the delight of all. Even those less dressed.
It was a heart-warming end to a cold winter’s day. Especially my ever-lasting last image of the evening — of a charming Ellie scooting off stage, joyfully waving her fans’ lingerie.