Where to from here? The question asked of, and often enough by, artists whose initial success sets them up for something bigger still, or maybe a big fall. A question followed by how do I get there without losing what I have before finding out who I am?
It’s at that point that Wind Back Wednesday has landed, continuing our trawl through gigs of future past to fill the yawning gap in our lives through The Great Confinement. Here’s Delta Goodrem in 2005, a massive star before she was 19, looking for the next stage, the next success, of her life.
In retrospect, we can ask ourselves a question: did she find it?
Superdome, July 23
Troubling as it may be for the fans, the artist in transition is sometimes the most interesting, sociologically speaking, of the species.
Take for example Justin Timberlake’s attempt last year to position himself as something more than the pretty-but-funky boy loved by thousands of women under-25. Surprisingly, he pulled it off musically; less surprisingly, the bemused faces of his audience suggested they weren’t necessarily going to go there with him.
Delta Goodrem’s transition from young balladeer, carrying the overwrought emotions of all the best teen dramas, to more complex adult performer is still a work in progress. Her second album, Mistaken Identity, mostly pulled off the more adventurous material; however, its relatively muted sales suggest her teen audience wasn’t entirely convinced while the adult market still has resistance.
Maybe neither end of the market is certain Goodrem has convinced herself. If so her first proper concert tour will give force to that argument without resolving it. It finds her trying hard to balance not just who the audience want her to be and who she wants to be but also, you suspect, who she really is.
Some of that was obvious in the opening double of the concert. The show began with a young girl in a fairy costume doing Saturday morning ballet class-style moves as the prelude to the first album’s Butterfly. It was terribly cute and pretty, like the scores of girls in the audience wearing their own butterfly wings.
Then the Tori Amos-influenced Mistaken Identity, enhanced by a live string ensemble, found Goodrem deploying the big gestures of the Saturday afternoon drama class while dancers disported in costumes mixing Pirates Of Penzance and Oliver. This was more charged if slightly rock eisteddfod (as were many of the outfits, both hers and the dancers).
That alternating pattern of old and new song, MOR ballad and florid pop, straightforward delivery and over emphasised movements, childlike and adult, continued throughout the night. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it felt odd.
Never more so than when one of those dramatic songs ended on a flourish and Goodrem began to talk in a style which could be described as charmingly unsophisticated and enthusiastic, or gauche girlish chatter, depending on your prejudices.
There were more swings and roundabouts. A wholly unconvincing cover of Jet’s Are You Gonna Be My Girl, was balanced by an impressive piano/guitar take on Born To Try, (described as “my very first single”, conveniently burying her actual, but unsuccessful, first single, I Don’t Care). The mawkish banalities of the duet with her beau Brian McFadden, Almost Here, had its flipside in the bare and completely entrancing performance of Fragile.
And perhaps tellingly, the two hour concert, while working hard to meet every demand and prove she was better than those flibbity gibbet teen pop acts, was a good 20 minutes too long.
It’s the kind of over-effort an artist in transition makes so it will be interesting to see if she feels the need to prove so much next time.