You think you know an artist well, but until you've seen them perform, you don't have the full picture. My first experience seeing Ellie Goulding live was during her Halcyon Days Tour in 2013. I was still reeling from her sophomore album, Halcyon, and wrapped up in its sweeping metaphors of love won and love lost. I had high hopes for the show. I wanted to be transported on some cosmic, cathartic highway. And she delivered. It was one of the best shows I've seen, but last night's show, directed by Scarlett Johansson, was out of this world.
American Express teamed Ellie Goulding up with The Avengers actor (and sometimes singer) for the final show of its Unstaged concert series. Goulding, riding high off the massive success of her equally massive (and deliciously pop) album Delirium, was more or less at the mercy of her fans and Johansson's vision. Through the Unstaged app, fans in the audience were able to control their viewing experience and even help select the visuals that would flash on stage. For an artist who, in her words, is not one "that lets producers run and do their thing," this seemed a bit against the grain. Goulding clearly had her hands in the connecting and execution of the Halcyon Days Tour. The glimmering stars, sparkles, and geometries are apart of her brand. Those were on display last night, but in unexpected ways.
Rather, as Goulding poured through hits like "Outside," "I Need Your Love," and new ones like "On My Mind" and "Codes," the audience was transported off to some psychedelic land. Candy coated, yes, but trippy. Her fans and Johansson must dig Tame Impala.
"It's an amazing partnership," Goulding said during a roundtable before the show. "It turns out we get on well." According to Goulding, Johansson was as attentive as ever and took time to ask every question she needed to get it right." And get it right, she did. The hour-or-so long performance flew by and was dripping with a confidence unique to 2015. I asked Goulding during the roundtable why she and her musical peers, like CHVRCHES and Florence + the Machine, are speaking out more and exerting such power. It can't just be coincidence, right? "Women are realizing they can use their own strength in any way they want to," she said. "There's a lot of things on this album I probably wouldn't have considered a couple years ago, on Halcyon." She adds, "Maybe that's an indicator of the times, that things are changing dramatically."
What a time to be alive, really. So far, every female musician has put out outstanding albums that are as liberated as ever, with corresponding shows that pack a powerful punch. Goulding's was no different. She's found a balance between the light and dark, and mainstream and indie. And Johansson's direction highlighted that. It empowered and showed two women coming together make for one unstoppable force.
For those who weren't able to attend the show or view the stream live, it can be viewed, below. It's one concert that'll stay on your mind for quite some time.