One of Britain’s hottest pop exports, singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, has been making the rounds in Southern California lately, beginning with a impressively soulful set at Coachella this past week followed by a sold-out show at Music Box in Hollywood on April 20th. As much as I would have preferred to report from either of those magnificent venues, my experience with Ellie was relegated to an oddly scheduled half-hour acoustic set played outdoors in L.A.’s most popular love-it-or-hate-it shopping mall, The Grove. It is worth mentioning that at the time I was working the day shift as a bairsta at Nordstrom’s Café (interns have to pay the bills somehow). I was well aware of Goulding’s acoustic performance at the mall that evening, a bright spot in an otherwise underwhelming PR-event sponsored by Nike+Run, so between steaming lattés and mixing iced mochas I planned to use my coveted 15-minute break to catch the show. But, being a rock star, Ellie arrived over 30 minutes late, leaving a nervous PR manager to toss out prizes to keep the small but impassioned crowd at bay. Goulding finally arrived on stage wearing running shoes, spandex leggings, and a bright pink Nike fleece. She was quick to point out the absurdity of it all. When a Nike rep asked her about running, she quipping “I feel like I’ve been talking about running more than I’ve been doing it.”
With the time before her show at the Music Box later that night running out, Goulding picked up her guitar and launched into the three singles from her debut album, “Guns and Horses,” “Lights,” and “Starry-Eyed.” Stripped of electronica beats, Ellie’s rich voice rang out beautifully, even as the Grove mistakenly continued to play its American bandstand soundtrack from the mall’s loudspeakers. The best part of Goulding’s voice is her ability to coo with soft introspection while being powerful and resilient enough to captivate the listener.
Her brief set here, while probably more professional than passionate, was wonderful nonetheless. Sitting on the grass in my espresso-stained apron, I realized I was late to return to work and hurried back to the coffee bar. It was well worth the crush. I hope to see Ellie Goulding in concert again soon, although, perhaps on a larger stage without the restraints of menial employment.