Photos + Review: Ellie Goulding at Viejas Arena (San Diego, CA)

Ellie Goulding (London/South East)
April 23rd, 2016
Viejas Arena in San Diego, CA

Unlike other young artists who have recently tried and failed the whole big arena jump after successfully working the small stage circuit, Ellie Goulding is one of the few who actually seemed created for bright lights and big crowds.  But don’t be so quick to call her the next pop princess, her talent as a multi-instrumentalist, a vocalist, and as a performer extend far beyond that.  She has managed to juggle the larger-than-life pop-diva atmosphere and intimate storytelling ambiance like a pro with a solid breathtaking performance that kept the audience captive through each song.

Goulding hit the road on January 21st launching her Delirium World Tour in support of her third studio album, Delirium, released earlier in 2015.  When speaking about the album Ellie stated that she viewed the album as an experiment and wanted it to be on another level.  While her album might have been the fortunate result of experimentation, her live performance is definitely the result of artful planning, extreme musical and vocal talent, and jaw dropping light and set design that  combined delivered an impeccable experience that moved the audience through an emotional night.  From the opening beat the set came alive pushed by the raw and powerful performance of her amazing dancers who literally unveiled and delivered her to her fans in this dramatic entrance that set the tone for the show to come.

I have heard people say that you can describe an artist by their fans.  In this case I think it turned out to be pretty true.  As I looked back at the notes I quickly scribbled during the show last night, I noticed that the first remark I made was written from outside the venue as I first arrived at the will call window.  I described her fans like rainbows, I couldn’t pin point an age group, a gender,  an ethnicity.  This stood out immediately as we live in a society that constantly seems to remind us of our social struggles, our diversities, and our incompatibilities.  Yet somehow, very randomly, at an art show, reading a book, or at a music concert we are reminded of how fundamentally the same we all are.  One single person can reach so many of us and help us put aside all the differences even if for only 90 minutes.

This same point resurfaced shortly after the other photographers and I were escorted into the photo pit to capture the first three allowed songs.  Usually, as a photographer being granted a limited amount of photo time I concentrate on the performer.  I always want to make sure that I get as many shots as possible during the set -which due to my nerves usually feels as quick as a second or two.  At this show this wasn’t as easy, while her interaction with the cameras was flawless and inviting, her fans also seemed just as captivated as we were.   I could hear them singing along song after song and I had to fight myself constantly from turning around and just breathing it all in.  I could feel their feet simultaneously stomping on the ground dancing along to her moves, and of course I could hear the I love you’s and Ellie being shouted from every direction and so of course I stopped, I stared…I admired.  It is not an easy task to demand attention from a crowd this large, a sold out packed arena, all eyes on her.  She masterfully managed it all.  The crowd danced, cheered, and interacted with her beyond my expectations.

One of my favorite moments was her delivery of the song, “Explosions.”  She performed barefoot in a long white dress with drapes behind her that physically seemed to hand her over to the crowd, changing the wild and loud mood of the show to a soft and delicate tone of intimacy.

Another Magical moment of the night was her gracious although brief tribute to Prince as she covered part of, “When Doves Cry” and brought me to tears.

Right before performing, “Army” she told the crowd that while too many songs are written about guys…blokes as she called them, this song was written about her best friend as a simple thank you.  She asked the crowd how many of them were there with their best friend and of course the hands raised were beyond countable.  At this moment the place just seemed smaller, intimate in a way.  The artful graphics that appeared on the background before were switched to pictures of her and her friend, then turned to images of the audience and their reactions to the friends they came with to the show.

Her capacity to play chameleon so to speak and change not only her delivery according to each song, but the entire atmosphere along with her costume changes, her talent of quickly creating a pop spectacle and then just as easily and quickly turning the lights out and delivering a poised emotional performance that makes each fan feel as if she is speaking only to them is awesome.  At the end of  “Army” she turned to the audience and waived the American flag.  All I could think at that point was how she had indeed conquered a piece of the U.S.  From that moment on the audience was hers completely.

Other highlights were definitely the moment the arena exploded and every single person seemed to jump out of their seat for “While I Got You On My Mind,” the loud sing alongs during “Codes,” and the quite emotional response to “Panic,” one of my favorite tracks of hers, and of course the big party finally with confetti (many of which are still in need of cleaning off my living room floor) and the karaoke like response to “Love Me Like You Do.”

Ellie is touring the US until June 4th, and if she’s hitting your town or a town near by don’t miss out on this show.  I can guarantee you she will conquer you as well. Dates are here.

Set List
Holding On For Life
Goodnes Gracious
Something In The Way You Move
Keep on Dancing
Don’t Need Nobody
On My mind
We Can’t Move To This
I Need Our Love
Anything Could Happen
Love Me Like You Do

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