Goldfrapp have always toyed with bizarre sexual imagery, from the nude girls with wolf heads of the Black Cherry era to the unsettling sketch of an owl with a human vagina that adorned the inner sleeve of their 2008 album Seventh Tree.

Still, it was something of a shock to see frontwoman Alison Goldfrapp emerging from what appeared to be a giant 10-metre wide sphincter at the band’s Big Top, Luna Park gig last Thursday.

Suspect stage props aside, Alison and co. were here to showcase latest album Head First, a nine-song collection of ‘80s-influenced pop that’s their most commercial effort to date – but has been met with an oddly muted response from fans.

But the songs really came into their own in a live context, where candyfloss confections like Alive had the crowd ready to don headbands and start star-jumping (the fact that her backing band were dressed almost entirely in spandex also helped to set the mood).

The setlist could have done with some tweaking – the slower, more ethereal songs like Voicething and You Never Know where played in quick succession at the start of the night, meaning it wasn’t until the triple sucker punch of Believer,Rocket and Alive that the energy lifted. But ending with some of the band’s most enduring hits – Ooh La La, Utopia, and a bass-heavy extended version of Strict Machine – left the crowd on a high.

Goldfrapp has always been a peerless performer, but since the concert some punters have grumbled about her apparent reliance on pre-recorded vocals. From where this reviewer was standing (and having seen Goldfrapp live in action on three other occasions), it may just be a case of Alison being too talented for her own good: while there did appear to be some help from backing tracks and overdubs to beef up the sound, for the most part, she appeared to be singing completely live.

She’s just really, really good at it.

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