Allison Goldfrapp must have known that the songs from her cinematic new album "Tales Of Us" would be difficult to reconcile when performed alongside her band's diverse, often rhythmic catalog. So when she performed nine of the album's 10 songs in sequence on Tuesday night (Sept. 10) at New York's Beacon Theater, with lush accompaniment from the 20-piece Wordless Music Orchestra, Goldfrapp found the best possible way to present the album's special sound — and on the day of its global release, to boot.
"Tales Of Us" was inspired largely by Goldfrapp's love of film and noir fiction, with themes that resonate with her devoted LGBT fanbase. "Annabel," she explained, was inspired a girl "trapped in the body of a boy," while "Clay" is based on the true story of "two soldiers who were in love." Each of the album's 10 cuts is named after a specific person with the exception of "Stranger," which tells the "only in England" tale of a daughter who sleeps with her mother's lover.
Many comparisons for "Tales of Us" have been made to the band's breakthrough debut, "Felt Mountain," and for good reason. Both records feature haunting vocals, are often bathed in strings and feature the kind of dynamics and hushed theatrics that would be hard to duplicate with a smaller band and track programming. The Beacon gig was particularly rare in that it not only allowed Goldfrapp to recreate "Tales Of Us" live, but marked the band's only scheduled U.S. gig of 2013 — save for an upcoming appearance on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," which was rescheduled to accommodate Kanye West. A series of short films for six of the album's songs, directed by Goldfrapp's partner Lisa Gunning, has been rolling out since July. The secone ond, for "Annabel," premiered last week.
Tuesday's show was one for the Goldfrapp diehards — fans of their electro-pop albums "Black Cherry," "Supernature" and "Head First" would have been disappointed to find none of those songs represented across two mini-sets. Just as tellingly, the only "Tales Of Us" cut not performed was "Thea," which features the closest thing the album comes to a dance beat. Instead, the orchestral setting allowed the band to revisit some of the most ethereal songs in their catalog, including a pair of "Felt Mountain" favorites ("Paper Bag" and "Lovely Head") that made welcome use of Goldfrapp's piercing falsetto as well as producer Will Gregory's expert use of the theremin. The folk-heavy collection "Seventh Tree" was also favored heavily, with songs like "Clowns," "A&E," "Road To Somewhere" all receiving the full band treatment.
By the time the entire Beacon stood up for the celebratory finale, "Caravan Girl," it was clear that the magic of Goldfrapp and the orchestra on Tuesday night would be hard to duplicate, even by a likely return to the States in 2014.
Here is the set list from Goldfrapp's New York performance:
Road To Somewhere