It may have been the biggest venue the UK's Ellie Goulding said she's played, but at her sold-out show at Aragon on Tuesday, she proved she had the pipes to fill the room, and then some. Her charismatic charm belied her petite frame, whether she was conjuring vulnerability on the devastating, piano-led "I Know You Care," sultrily dancing to "Only You," or pogoing to the dubstep-enhanced "Lights."
The last few years, Britain has produced several powerhouse singers that have blown up at home and gone on to success on these shores, such as Adele and Florence + The Machine; Goulding, and recently Emeli Sandé, seem poised as the next crossovers. Each having their own distinct style, Goulding's approach mines synth-kissed folk, ballads and electro-dance-pop, the latter being screamed-along crowd favorites that were her strongest suit at her show. And she's had an impressive rise. She won the BRITs Critic Choice Award in 2010 and her debut album, "Lights," went No. 1 in the UK the same year and gained buzz stateside. By 2011 she was performing at Prince William's wedding reception. Her recently released sophomore album, "Halcyon," is more electronic driven and shows her growth as a songwriter, with stronger lyrics and hooks.
"Halcyon" was written after a breakup, and at the Aragon, Goulding tugged at heartstrings, leading the audience through longing, disillusionment, and also catharsis. The ballad beginnings of "Halcyon" became a confession and a mantra. "You show me what it feels like to be lonely," she sang as almost a sigh, before a crescendo of beats were eclipsed by an insistent "It's gonna be better" refrain, as if repeating the phrase would make the words so. Her cover of Active Child's "Hanging On," pointed the futility of clinging to the past, complete with a tingly falsetto, programmed stuttery vocal manipulations and an EDM-styled build and drop adding emotional emphasis. The visceral "My Blood," whose early verses were unfortunately a bit lost in the mix, grew to a loop-enhanced chorus of acceptance: Goulding's voice both raw and pleading.
Some songs in the set were a little scattershot. "Guns and Horses," where Goulding donned an acoustic guitar and treaded more folky territory, sounded out of place next to her more propulsive material, and newer ballads, such as "Explosions," tended to plod as well. Still, by the time she ushered in the buoyant "Anything Can Happen," she made a case for hope after heartbreak and her new musical direction.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun