NEW YORK — Among fans at NYC’s Santos Party House, you couldn’t tell that Ellie Goulding‘s album had dropped only two days ago. Judging by every word sung by the twenty-something-year-old crowd, it was as if the U.K. singer’s sophomore effort Halcyon had been out for months — giving ample time for fans to memorize every nook and cranny of the 12-track disc.
After all, it took 2010′s “Lights” a year and a half before it peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Immediate acclaim in the U.S. isn’t exactly what the 25-year-old soprano was expecting. But as men and women alike belted out tunes like recent single “Anything Could Happen” and newbies like “My Blood” (off-key, and right in my ear), Halcyon seems like an instant success.
“I can’t believe you know all the lyrics,” beamed Goulding, sporting black leather shorts and a top with the most dramatic sleeves: webbed mesh with fringes at her wrists. She continued in disbelief in between songs, “The album just came out. It’s so surreal.”
But you better believe it, Ellie. From the screaming and wailing after every verse (it sometimes felt more like a Justin Bieber concert than an indie electropop show) and an entire room singing your songs (including “ohs,” “ahs” and adlibs), it’s safe to say you’ve made it in the States … or at least developed a devout following.
Beginning Thursday night’s show with the first track of her new album, “Don’t Say a Word,” Goulding’s breathy vocals sounded as if she were telling a secret — each lyric delivered as an amplified whisper. The red, blue and aquamarine stage lights tinted her platinum blond hair, her exceptionally perfect cheekbones shimmering as yellows and oranges danced across her face. “You’re beautiful, Ellie!” a male fan shouted from the edge of the stage.
The English songtress floated into “My Blood,” claiming the song as her favorite off the record. Despite being pegged as an EDM artist last summer, Ellie told MTV News in August that Halcyon is definitely a pop album, moving from the electronic dance music that made her debut Lights popular to more piano licks, made evident in “My Blood.” At times, two bandmates dueled on keyboards, tinkling out accompanying arpeggios as a beat surrounded them.
“Only You” provided concert goers with a tribal feel, complete with extra percussion and a boot-stomping rhythm. Ellie took to her tom drum, raising two sticks above her head before slamming down a beat. An acoustic version of “Guns and Horses” left audience members feeling intimate, reach out to the singer with outstretched hands. “Explosions” continued the connection with the crowd. As she exercised her vibrato singing of heartbreak, a common theme on the new album, fans echoed her words: “It’s OK to be afraid, but it’ll never be the same. It’ll never be the same.”
After rousing the crowd back up to dance mode, the union between musician and fan strengthened (“It’s my favorite when I can see all of you. And hear you as well!”). And as Ellie turned her back to the audience, she fell back — somewhat hesitantly — to a group of supportive palms. Her thick-soled creepers completed her black ensemble as her pale legs rose above her body. Returning to the stage, she belted out the obligatory performance of “Lights,” crooned Elton John’s “Your Song,” which got her preliminary notice in the U.S., and ended the show with “Starry Eyed.”
And as fans poured out onto Canal Street and into the subways, they kept singing — perhaps a testament to Ellie Goulding’s effect on her fans, leaving them wanting more. As the N train approached the platform, I could still hear “Lights” projecting from tiny cellphone speakers, following me home.