Three Ellie Gouldings, and all good

Ellie Goulding's set presented three musical personalities.
Ellie Goulding's set presented three musical personalities.
Posted: March 18, 2014

It's no immediately easy feat figuring out singer/ songwriter Ellie Goulding. If you were to look to the legion of tween girls that packed her sold-out Liacouras Center show at Temple University on Friday night, you'd gather the Brit lass with the long blond tresses, black hoodie, and short-shorts was their nice pop-top goddess and theirs alone: Miley without the crotch shots.

Goulding's girl fans wriggled and leapt at every tousle of their fan-fave's hair and knew the words to such teen-tone hits as the slickly crunching "Figure 8" and its romantic "not too old to die young" kid-nihilism, the gently soulful "You're My Everything," and the glittering "Anything Can Happen." The throng cheered when she introduced that last silvery song with a whisper: "If you're like me, you're shy most of the time. If you want to let yourself go, now is the time." With that, Goulding identified herself with both the timid and the torrid side of adolescence - which brings up the other side of Goulding, one with a moodily atmospheric art rocker's edge of glitch-synth ambiance and abstract sensualist lyricism that could make her Kate Bush's spiritual niece.

It's surely this lovely oddness - the celestial faux-harp opening and insistent yelping of the word again acting as its chorus on "Animal," the hypnotic piano and grand theatrical melodicism of "The Writer" - that made Goulding the choice of filmmakers and composers (junkie XL, Hans Zimmer) alike when they hired her to contribute vocals to their score for Divergent, opening this week. Still, it is that film's theme song, "Beating Heart," that revealed yet a third Goulding, the one wearing the white acoustic guitar and plucking plainly a story of simple emotion over a simple musical theme with a breathy voice that belied a simmering insulated sadness.

That's a lot of Gouldings.

Within these frameworks, she romped and stomped (literally, with huge boots) through a downbeat version of Elton John's "Your Song," jumped in place through the percolating house sounds of "I Need Your Love," and generally and genuinely put on one thrilling show.

Opening act Conway was no slouch, either. With her husky voice's cute vocal tics, she and her crew came across like a chipper-pop version of post-punk legends Siouxsie & the Banshees on songs like the druggy "Big Talk."

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