The first time I saw Brit Ellie Goulding was in 2011 at Osheaga at one of the smaller stages. I went there knowing nothing really about her except for the fact that Will and Kate selected her to sing at their wedding reception. High profile gig. Right away I was struck by her voice, energy and professional attitude. She was the only artist I saw who did a soundcheck, had a book filled with notes about the show which she referred to after each song, could really expend a lot of energy while just being at a mic stand, and had a unique sounding voice which instead of separating itself from the music settled inside of it to become the perfect instrument for dance tunes. Despite a couple of Grammy nominations and Brit Award wins, millions of followers on Instagram, now being someone that paparazzi follow around on a daily basis, and shows in bigger venues, the essence of Ellie Goulding has not changed much.
The Delirium World Tour is the first arena tour for Goulding and it truly is a high octane affair. Throughout she demonstrated the stamina she has built up through her active lifestyle (she boxes, runs and works out like a demon despite her demanding schedule). As she squat jumped through the choruses of her single “Anything Can Happen” during the encore you realized that the time she spent in the gym has paid off.
A great thing about her shows is that even though they are bigger and before bigger audiences the core of Ellie still remains. She has stuck to who and what she is and her long-time fans should not be turned off. Being that it is a bigger show than she has ever done before the requisite big screens, male back-up dancers, confetti, smoke machines and lights, and costume changes were all there. The good thing is that nothing is done obnoxiously or in over-the-top style. She changed four times during the show but her usual short shorts and black Dr. Martens have remained part of her repertoire. No impractical high heels for this lass as she dances around the stage.
Her fanbase is mainly young and female with the odd exceptions. That is because she writes songs that females can relate to. They are mostly about love, but told in poetic yet universal way. In a nice moment of turning away from love songs like “Devotion”, she told the story of how she realized while writing this album that she had never written a song about her best friend. Someone who had been with her through thick and thin and many a broken heart. In a moment of true celebration of female friendship and the importance of it she, aided greatly by the crowd, sang “Army”. Again the females in the audience ate it up with a spoon. True girl power.
Throughout the over 90 minute show, the setlist was heavily populated by songs from her latest album, Delirium, but there were also sprinklings of oldies but goodies like “Lights”, “Explosions” and the rock adjacent “Figure 8”. As opposed to her earlier stuff, which meshed folk along with electronica, the newer stuff is more pure pop. But even when she now writes songs with a mind towards having to perform them night after night in front of large audiences she still manages to do things a little differently. A perfect example of this is her first single off Delirium, “On My Mind”. It has a catchy chorus and staccato sound to it, but finds our blonde native of Hereford (western part of England near the Welsh border) pseudo rapping. Nothing about her music is formulaic and that is what makes it stand out from that churned out by other pop princesses. She does want to find herself on the top of the pop charts, but on her own terms.
During the slow songs in the show she showed a rather vulnerable side. Along with how she has matured as a performer. She now has the balls to present songs that are quieter and hold the attention of her young audience. The big dance club hit “Lights” was done acoustically and had the crowd singing along and not moaning that she had changed it up. This acoustic section, which featured a barefoot Ellie in a long white dress which was exquisite in all its lace and beading, really allows that elastic and unique sounding voice of hers to shine. It comes right up the centre and is strong yet controlled. Even though, as she mentioned, this was show 73 of her tour there was nary a sign of fatigue in her voice or a false note hit.
Though she is not really one to banter much while onstage, she did speak to the pretty much full (theatre style) Bell Centre a couple of times. Once mentioning that the fact that when she started it was just her and her guitar and about 7 audience members and that it is now thousands is not lost on her. Ellie also mentioned that it was a hot up on stage but that was generally an indication that the show was going well and in her next breath she attributed that to the enthusiastic Montreal audience. She seemed genuinely happy to be here in Canada, so much so that during the acoustic section of her show she wrapped herself in a Canadian flag. I had seen a couple of shows on the tour in the United States and that never happened with an American flag. As someone who is a vegan, anti-gun, fights for the rights of the homeless, concerned about the environment, and speaks out often about her hatred of Donald Trump you can see why crossing the border into Canada for a couple of dates (Toronto is the next night) might be a welcome change for her. The England-Canada friendship was evident.
At the beginning of the Delirium tour she announced that because she had not really taken a break for 5 years or so that she would be taking a year off to live a life. Work with Greenpeace, spend time with family and friends, and not miss events like birthdays and weddings would be what she focused on. That is an understandable statement, but the music world will miss her and that voice.
In what seemed like an odd musical pairing, the opening act was Matt and Kim. Real life couple Matt John son (vocal and keyboards) and Kim Schfino (drums and backing vocals) are pretty far from Ellie’s sound. They do bring the energy, though. The indie duo have been together since 2004 and often used samples from other artists within their songs. On this evening snippets of Beastie Boys “No Sleep til Brooklyn”, Van Halen’s “Jump” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella” were used. While their music could be classified as dance pop it is fairly generic sounding. They did do a good job warming the crowd up however and that is mostly due to Kim’s crazy onstage personality. She danced on her drum kit, said funny things and was basically more energetic than any drummer I had ever seen before. During their 30-odd minute set they ran through songs like “Let’s Go”, “It’s Alright” and “Hey Now”.
- Intro (Delirium)
- Holding on for Life
- Goodness Gracious
- Something in the Way You Move
- Devotion (Acoustic)
I Do What I Love (Musical Interlude)
- Keep on Dancin’
- Don’t Need Nobody
Heal (Dance Sequence)
- Lights (Acoustic)
- Lost and Found
- Figure 8
- On My Mind
- Don’t Panic
- We Can’t Move to This
- I Need Your Love
- Anything Could Happen
- Love Me Like You Do