ELLIE GOULDING, Wembley Arena – Evening Standard, 21 Dec 2018

There are plenty of ways to be charitable that feel like more of a sacrifice than Ellie Goulding’s concert for Streets of London. To help the organisation that helps the homeless, the singer milked her starry contacts book to produce a fast moving show featuring more hit singles than a Now! compilation.

  This was her fifth year organising this Christmas event, and the most ambitious, making a big jump from the Albert Hall to Wembley Arena. It wasn’t quite full, maybe because pop fans had already committed to Capital Radio’s Jingle Bell Ball, an arena pop show around the same time with the same format: get on, do the hits and get off.

  Goulding’s line-up was a thorough summary of the year in British pop, with a couple of new faces thrown in for extra bang in the cracker. Irish newcomer Dermot Kennedy had a mighty voice that overwhelmed its low-key piano backing. Grace Carter had a fuller sound for her soulful pop.

  Outside of those showcases of fresh talent, the hits were relentless. Most of the 11 acts did around three songs each, leaving no space for album tracks or experiments. Bastille’s career was distilled down to just their latest single Happier and their breakthrough hit Pompeii, delivered acoustically with drummer Chris Wood on finger clicks. Olly Alexander of Years & Years and Sigrid also humbly acted as palate cleansers while the main stage was being set up for bigger things, performing their best known songs with minimal accompaniment.

  That left Clean Bandit, Dua Lipa and our hostess to do the spectacle. Each found time for confetti explosions in their brief sets, while Goulding added a firework shower and some red trousers that were almost as bright. Lipa has been touring extensively this year and it showed, with her tightly marshalled dancers and a triumphant blast through New Rules that was the evening’s overall highlight.

  A festive cover from Goulding sent the crowd home primed for the week ahead, despite her forgetting some words to All I Want for Christmas is You. Doing a good deed has rarely felt so painless.

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