I remember being 15 or so and being absolutely outraged that Ellie Goulding won some kind of BBC Radio 1 “one to watch” competition over Marina and the Diamonds. Saturday night showed me that while Marina Diamandis is unquestionably still a queen amongst mere mortals, 15 year old Yasmin had no idea what she was talking about.
Ellie Goulding is extraordinary.
Having seen the opening act, Openside, about 8 or 9 times now, I wasn’t sure I’d have anything new to add when it came to their performance. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Unlike a lot of opening slots, this crowd was largely unaware of who they are. But with a heart-booming opening sequence, backing tracks throughout tighter than ever, and the massive crowd participation during a cover of Major Lazer’s Lean On, Openside definitely engaged the audience. Bouncing around the stage constantly, I have never seen the four members looking so happy. Like, ever. Hearing the post-set mumblings of some very impressed girls, I know Openside left Vector on Saturday night with a lot of new fans.
Forty minutes later, after opening with the intro track to Delirium, Ellie Goulding graced the stage for the first ‘act’ of the night, instantly evoking screams and not-so-cool dance moves from the audience at the jam packed Vector Arena. It wouldn’t be an Ellie Goulding show without one of her infamous drum solos, and I was glad to see that while Ellie has clearly come on leaps and bounds since she was last in New Zealand in 2014, she hasn’t really changed.
Crowd interactions were limited, as Ellie explained that impressive crowds such as ours sometimes made her shy, but she was quick to reassure us that it’s because we are awesome. Naturally, the crowd took this extremely well. More screaming ensued.
“When I’m performing to people that I feel are just like not into it, I’m like “ah, well” and I’m just like “blah blah blah” or whatever, but you guys, I love you guys. You guys are awesome, so thank you.”
She returned from an interlude, consisting of entertainment provided by her male dancers, as well as on-screen shots of Ellie herself, to a fluorescent stage (where her dancers gave a whole new meaning to the boys in crops thing). The second act gave off an EDM vibe as she performed dance-y tracks Keep on Dancin’ and Don’t Need Nobody. The act was short, but expected, as the non-stop dancing during both acts meant the crowd needed a chance to catch their breaths.
After another break with her male dancers and shots of her in the background, Ellie returned in a stunning white dress ready to play the more emotional third act, starting with You, My Everything. I’ve always known Ellie to be talented, but it was during the acoustic version of Devotion that talent really shone through, for me, for the first time. It’s hard to put feelings into words when she effortlessly hits the high notes, but any song that instantaneously causes goosebumps to appear over your entire body has to be something special, right? It was beautiful and despite the size of the venue, managed to create a feeling of intimacy.
The next interlude stood out as a beautiful piece of art in its own right, as two of Ellie’s male dancers performed the most romantic duet I have ever seen, and just like that I was crying again. Continuing on a romantic theme, Ellie performed two heart-wrenching tracks in Explosions (off Halcyon) and Still Falling For You (written for the Bridget Jones’ Baby soundtrack). There wasn’t one point during the voice where Ellie’s voice faltered in the slightest, but it was these emotionally-charged songs that really showcased her vocal range – I don’t think there was a single person in the crowd that was anything but awestruck.
The next song, Army, was an ode to Ellie’s best friend, Hannah, in which the backing screen filled up with photos of the two of them before panning to the crowd to show off friendships between members of the audience. It was another moment where the 13,000 capacity venue suddenly felt intimate again, and suddenly you felt like you knew a little bit more about Ellie beyond what you get from her music. To make her best friend such a huge part of a show such a long way from home proves her unwavering loyalty, a trait that is admirable in any person.
Lost and Found was performed with “Fit Chris” on acoustic guitar, as they both sat on the on-stage steps looking so ridiculously beautiful that I swear beams of angelic light were shooting out of them. As the track drew to a close, Ellie and Chris left the stage for yet another short interlude and a final costume change.
“People have been asking if Fit Chris was here, well here he is and I can confirm that he smells like heaven.”
Ellie returned looking totally rocker chic in a black sequin catsuit and a personalised leather jacket covered in what were possibly crystals. It was magical, and I can only hope that one day I, too, am cool enough to rock a jacket with my name on it without looking like a total narcissist. This last act of the show was a beautiful blur of some of my favourite Ellie Goulding tracks, particularly Figure 8 and Codes, (which caused an excited, animalistic kind of squeal to come out of my mouth) the latter of which I wasn’t expecting to see on the setlist. Don’t Panic is the most relatable track on Delirium, and hearing Ellie’s speech on freaking out made me feel even more connected with her. It’s comforting to know going a little mental over nothing isn’t just us alone in our irrationality.
The show faded out for the encore after obvious crowd faves (deduced from the number of people yelling of ‘YASSSSS’ around me), Need Your Love and Burn. The crowd was singing every word and it occurred to me, not for the first time during the night, just how well the setlist was arranged. She built up the atmosphere perfectly, and the audience was completely entranced throughout the show, not least as she asked us to light up the room (hoping for lighters but instead met with smart phone flashlights) before getting every light in the room turned off (“This isn’t the point, it’s completely self indulgent”), and asking us to put all recording devices away and be in the moment for just one song.
“How about, so we can put both hands up, we take no pictures and – young lady you put your phone away – um and uh we’ll just have an experience, just us in this room and not film or take any pictures and just keep it forever, for our thoughts.”
After the usual screaming and stomping, Ellie Goulding took to the stage one last time for her final two songs, Anything Could Happen and Love Me Like You Do – arguably her biggest hits from the past three years. Ellie is never subtle when it comes to her views on certain matters, just recently taking to Twitter to express her disdain towards us humans pretty much killing the planet beyond repair, and she took to her last track to show her support for the LGBTQI+ community. The backing screen intermittently turned into a rainbow flag, and as if that wasn’t enough, as the show drew to a close, we were showered with rainbow confetti.
I’m not exactly sure what makes me think that Ellie would be one of those people that you could just grab a beer with, and not for one second feel like you were sitting across from an international superstar. Perhaps it’s the fact that she can come on stage wearing a sparkly jumpsuit, looking sexy as hell, and yet at the same time, laugh her way through a choreographed dance rocking Doc Martens. It’s clear that she doesn’t take herself too seriously and everything about her down to earth demeanour makes you want to be her friend.
It’s this, combined with a talent that I have never witnessed before that makes Ellie such a joy to see perform. By the time the confetti cannons went off, I was a floating sea of uninhibited smiles, and it was the happiest I’d felt in weeks.
Like I said: Ellie Goulding is extraordinary.
Holding on for Life
Something in the Way You Move
You, My Everything
I Do What I Love – Interlude
Keep on Dancin’
Don’t Need Nobody
Heal – Interlude
Still Falling For You
Lost and Found
Dance – Interlude
On My Mind
Need Your Love
Anything Could Happen
Love Me Like You Do