It’s 6pm on Friday in Dover, Delaware. Day 1 of the 2013 Firefly Music Festival. The sun is shining, there’s not a cloud in the sky. And Ellie Goulding takes the stage.
From the moment she appears, the audience numbering tens of thousands is enraptured. She’s luminous.
She wears a simple outfit: tiny black shorts, white see-through shirt revealing a black bra underneath, and a cut-out of the letter “F” affixed to her top. Her band consists of four men, all capable musicians, but you barely notice their presence. She has no elaborate stage set-up, no fancy light show, no pyro, no choreographed dance routines. She doesn’t need any of that. She relies solely on her music.
She sings sixteen songs. Some are upbeat, some are slow. Some are about love, some about heartbreak. There are hits, there are album cuts, there are even covers (Elton John’s “Your Song”). She’s been performing these songs for months on end, years even, sometimes at festivals, sometimes at headlining shows. But she sings them today with unwavering passion and intensity and freshness.
During “Salt Skin” she looks possessed: eyes closed, grabbing her hair. During “My Blood” she sways, arms raised to the sky. During “Only You,” when she sings ‘I’m on my knees,’” she does just that.
Sometimes she drums. Sometimes she jumps around. Sometimes she thrashes her head, her short hair whipping behind her, looking like a sexy Fraggle.
She banters with the audience. When she claims she never smells despite sweating in the heat, we believe her. When she asks, “Who wants to jump? Who wants to dance?” before launching into “Anything Could Happen,” it’s obviously a rhetorical question. The answer is everyone.
She sings “I Need Your Love,” and the crowd fully expects a visit from Calvin Harris, who is scheduled to perform on that same stage two hours later. When he doesn’t appear, the audience doesn’t care. She doesn’t need him.
The entire crowd is jumping in unison as her set ends with an energetic one-two punch of “Starry Eyed” and “Lights.” They are beaming. She made everybody happy.
She is great.