GOLDFRAPP with ELBOW at the Opera House, November 24. Tickets: $16.50. Attendance: 400. Rating: NN
from the hush of the opera House crowd at 11 pm, just moments before Goldfrapp finally appeared, you could tell that Elbow's warm-up spot had only heightened anticipation for the John Barry soundtrack come to life. People remained motionless, eyes trained on the stage, clearly expecting something so wildly spectacular to happen that they couldn't risk blinking, drawing a breath or tilting a bottle for fear of missing what could suddenly burst out of the darkness.
The tension eased up for a moment as Goldfrapp's hired guitarist, Andy Davis, drummer Rowan Oliver and violinist Davide Rossi lumbered businesslike to their designated areas and kicked off the night with what could've been a lost Bond theme.
Still no sign of the main attraction. As the music continued without her, the nervous muttering started -- "Where is she? What's going on?" -- only to be drowned out by adoring applause as the group's namesake diva, Alison Goldfrapp, emerged.
But the woman onstage, looking très Debbie Harry circa 76 in a newsboy cap and vintage T-shirt ensemble, didn't seem nearly as otherworldly as the group's ethereal-sounding Felt Mountain (Mute) debut suggested.
This was no angelic superbeing after all, but merely the surly-looking vocalist of a studio fabrication masquerading as a band. A singer who didn't know what to do with her hands when she wasn't waving frantically at the sound man behind her back and pointing at the monitor.
According to the tour manager, Goldfrapp had been suffering from tonsillitis lately, but she was still good at getting all breathy with the microphone. The difficulty was engaging the audience.
At least the project's sonic mastermind, Will Gregory, realized there was supposed to be an entertainment side to the performance and got into the showmanship bit by arching backwards and scrunching up his face while triggering different effects from his synth unit on cue.
After 40 minutes of songs from Felt Mountain, Goldfrapp blurted out, "I'm sorry," flipped her drink and scurried off, leaving the rest to look at each other like a clutch of spaniels tied up outside a bank machine. She wasn't coming back.
As the house lights came up, it was possible to see the blank expressions of the dumbfounded crowd waiting for an encore that would never happen.