Two years ago, Ellie Goulding was still on her way to becoming radio-omnipresent and a favorite of EDM button-pushers, and her Coachella stage performance felt like it, bursting with gotta-prove-something vocal gymnastics and boundless energy that would make any Pilates instructor envious. But now the spritely “Love Me Like You Do” singer is a bona fide stateside star capable of selling out vast spaces coast to coast. Which is the very reason she shouldn’t have been booked for a return, at least not so soon: Her set, though chock-full of hits that had multitudes (of mostly women) chanting along, still came off as just her touring production condensed for maximum festival impact, replete with Madonna-style turns on guitar and arena-ready visuals that prove how prepared Goulding is to eventually join the ranks of celebrity CoverGirl models.
Much to her credit, she didn’t wilt in the heavy winds, braving it with gusto even as it rendered her vocals raspier (a plus) and increasingly adenoidal (a minus), although a low-key, piano-led version of “Lights” only underscored how wispy her pipes can be without all that studio sweetening. And still it’s hard to hate the chanteuse in a crop-top and flowing cape to match her running trainers, even as she becomes something of a danceable Celine Dion for the electro scene. She may not have the command or presence Florence Welch showed in this same time slot last year, but her popularity isn’t a fluke, either. –Ben Wener