O2 Shepherds Bush Empire – March 25th
Tonight, we expect nothing less than a full-on performance from the writer of ‘I Love It’, and we’re not disappointed. After a preparatory light show, the curtain rises and Charli takes us straight into action with the power-chug of ‘Sucker’. From then on, she sets the pace as – like an almost-demented choir-cum-games mistress – she instructs us by turn to sing, clap, wave, shout. And we do so, avidly. There’s no other way we can respond to numbers such as ‘London Queen’, where she contrasts London with LA, or ‘Breaking Up’, which celebrates the ease with which a bad boyfriend is given the push. All the time, she works the stage wearing a diaphanous jagged dress, backed-up by her sparkly-clad, angel-wing wearing all-female band.
But it’s not only the power of Charli’s performance which impresses the audience. It’s the versatility which she displays, too. ‘Body of My Own’ is a salsa-like celebration of masturbation after sexual coldness from a lover. ‘Famous’, about pretended fame as a substitute for teen boredom, has a thumpy R’n’B style. We get pure Motown with ‘Hanging Around’ – a longing to escape small-town dullness – and ‘Need Ur Luv’ – a yearning to receive someone’s love even when it hurts. Charlotte Emma Aitchison – her real name – is a superb craftswoman, moving with deft power between different musical genres. Maybe her ability to do this is linked to her having synesthesia, a neurological condition resulting in sensations getting mixed up between the five senses. For her, music takes on colours, so perhaps the creation of her music takes on the nature of paintings where an artist deftly mixes her paints to create a picture. The result is as if she’s not only taken on board the Spice Girls’ message of Girl Power but also shaken and stirred – blended sounds too bland – the spirits of the Supremes, the Shangri-Las and Siouxsie.
All evening, a name hovers in our minds – and that name is Rita Ora. Will she, won’t she, will she make an appearance and duet with Charli on ‘Doing It’? At the end of the show, yes she does, and yes they do, for the final number of the set. But Charli’s soon back on stage for her encore, ending it with the dreamy power of ‘Boom Clap’. This is a double whammy of an ending to an exhibition of musical power and skill, of vivacity and venom.
Will she be able to maintain that great combination? Somehow, I think she will.
Buy: Charli XCX – Sucker