Ellie Goulding rocked a sold-out Wiltern audience Saturday night with a bombastic show that was undeniably appealing at times, but the overall pacing was problematic: Numerous lulls in momentum often upset the crescendoed blitz of Goulding’s grandiose recipe for house-inspired electro pop.
With 2012’s “Halcyon,” Goulding affirmed her status as a globally known quantity in pop music, charting effectively throughout Europe and the U.S. Her current monthlong U.S. tour — which wraps Tuesday at the Palladium — has seen the U.K.-based songstress take on a series of mid-sized venues that seem to intentionally underserve the regional marketplaces, perhaps setting the table for a larger capacity run later in 2013. In addition to the widespread success of “Halcyon,” Goulding’s 2010 debut “Lights” continues to receive major radio airplay in the U.S., especially the title track, which has been bolstered by a number of popular remixes.
Emerging in short-shorts and a midriff-baring crop top, Goulding opened the set with a few seconds of unadorned, a cappella vocal incantations. Her breathy soprano is ethereal and utterly unique, exhibiting a virtuosic dexterity while maintaining a charming Cockney lilt. As Goulding and her band rifled through the powerful trilogy of “Don’t Say a Word,” “Halcyon” and “Figure 8,” tribal drumming and deep electronic synthesizers served as the primary textural components. As spectacular neon lights flashed orange and blue, the auxiliary musicians dug into the menacing, bass-heavy arrangements with great force. “Halcyon” was especially affecting, scraping together a grooving backbeat with ghostly synth lines that elegantly framed Goulding’s deeply emotive vocal.
This opening triumvirate was exquisite and exhilarating, but it also set the bar very high for the rest of the show. A rendition of Active Child’s bone-chilling ballad “Hanging On” was overly blown-out, drenching the wonderful vocal lines in a crunchy morass of synth and drum pads. The saccharine emo of “Joy” and “Explosions” considerably slowed the pace, prepping the audience for a solo acoustic version of “Guns and Horses,” which was beautifully sung but aesthetically out of place sitting beside so many hard-driving electronic tracks.
A piano-led cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” engaged the audience in a pleasant singalong, while the gospel-tinged “My Blood” injected some much-needed visceral power into the sluggish mid-section of the set. Overall, the final third of the setlist struggled with consistency, but standout single “Anything Could Happen” essentially saved the day, rallying the crowd with its life-affirming mantras and unshakable synth refrain. The sheer bliss and jubilance expressed in “Anything Could Happen” tangibly inspired the audience, seemingly giving each fan the chance to joyously partake in the celebration.
The encore consisted of “I Need Your Love” and a straightforward version of “Lights,” which benefited greatly from an epic, caterwauling dubstep-inspired finale.
As a singer and performer, Goulding certainly has the chops to remain a major player in popular music for years to come. Her epic, outsized show seems to be arena-ready, and the audience demand seems to be there. Now is the time for her to take things to another level and start tackling the historic, high-capacity venues.