Goldfrapp are wonderful live and this treat of a double DVD offers two very contrasting moods. They correspond pretty well to the two albums released to date - the surreal, dreamy Felt Mountain from September 2000 and the sassy, sexy, upbeat Black Cherry from April 2003.
Early gigs saw a slightly unsure Alison Goldfrapp - not of her voice, which I can only assume has been astonishing since she first took the teether out of her mouth - but on stage. In early 2001 at ULU she was understated, almost frumpy; by May that year at the Union Chapel she'd turned into a uber-sexy dominatrix.
The Shepherd's Bush Empire gig, listed as the second DVD of this set, is from December of that year and she's settled down into a glam black sparkly look, with lots of cleavage and a see through skirt that shows off her enviably great legs, but she still doesn't quite know what to do with herself on stage.
It's a complete Felt Mountain set, the wide open soundscapes as gorgeous as ever with nothing but a backdrop of stars and some good lighting effects in terms of staging. Brown Paper Bag provides a low-key start, leading into Human to pick up the pace a tad. Will Gregory is in the background as usual, looking chunky, shaggy and unassuming (I always seem to forget to mention him, Alison Goldfrapp being so much to the forefront in this band, but if it wasn't for his glorious keyboards and orchestration...)
Deer Stop, Lovely Head, Pilots, Felt Mountain, Utopia - they're all there, with a couple of rarities including the previously unreleased Little Death. This is great - it starts as a typical slow, spacious ballad but picks up speed with a middle-Eastern upbeat central section, ending up as a trancy techno trip.
Cut to eighteen months later and a hot summer's evening outside Somerset House. Black Cherry has been out a few months and the urban, uptempo songs have given a new momentum to Goldfrapp live. The documentary on this DVD gives a glimpse of the characters behind the music and reveals that after touring Felt Mountain for so long, they got really bored with just the same songs, and decided to change style to have more fun. Well, it shows, and there's no doubt that Alison Goldfrapp now knows exactly what to do with herself - or rather her body - on stage.
Black patent thigh-boots, a pelmet of a skirt, a pert black hat and lashings of kohl turn her into a very sultry figure indeed, and as she launches into Deep Honey and then Human it's very interesting to contrast this with the earlier gig. The music is still great but there's far more stage presence, far more interaction with the audience.
Laid-back Felt Mountain songs provide the punctuation between the dance numbers of Black Cherry: Train, Tiptoe, Twist and of course the fabulous Strict Machine that gives the DVD its title. It makes for a brilliantly varied set and makes me wish once again I'd been there.
The previously mentioned documentary is a little dull in places but does provide some gems. I particularly like Alison's comments on mothers, where all those deer came from, why you can't drink anything fizzy before a gig, and her reaction to being asked how some interviews had gone. She is reported to be - how shall I put it - challenging to interview. "They went very well", she says. "And the politeness aspect?" "I thought I was very polite - but hey, I've been wrong before."
If you've seen Goldfrapp live you'll love this set. If you haven't seen Goldfrapp live, you need this set.