Music Critic Louisa Pickard reviews Ava Max’s concert in Birmingham, highlighting her stunning stage show and the fun and liberating atmosphere

MA Shakespeare Studies student @ uob, reviewing all things musical and stagey!

Having cancelled her debut tour due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Ava Max’s aptly named comeback – ‘On Tour Finally’- saw her prove to fans that she was very much worth the wait. Having shot to fame with hits such as ‘The Motto’ and ‘Sweet But Psycho’, this tour would incorporate both the songs that she was yet to perform from her first album Heaven & Hell, as well as her highly anticipated sophomore album, Diamonds & Dancefloors.

Her support act, Emlyn, brought all of the empowering energy that you would expect from an Ava Max concert and, despite a very short set of only five songs, showcased powerhouse vocals and new releases. Whilst impressive, her performance could not fully satiate the crowd who were impatient for Max to begin.

The stage was quickly set up with a stunning diamond set piece and starlit background; I only wished that the opening number would have seen her appear within the jewel itself! Instead, accompanied by her dance crew, Ava Max eventually sprung up onto stage to sing the titular number ‘Diamonds & Dancefloors’.  The opening voiceover reassured the crowd that this was a safe space to celebrate one another and party, much like the main themes of her album, and set the tone for what was a fun and liberating evening of music.

Max’s production team proved the potential that the O2 Institute stage held for a really showstopping set

Visually, the performances were stunning. The all-female dance crew were clad in white and full of life, each showing off their own personality whilst dancing in sync with Ava. During the fan favourite ‘Kings and Queens’, they even performed with sticks and later returned with chairs. Despite not being an incredibly large venue, Max’s production team proved the potential that the O2 Institute stage held for a really showstopping set. Similarly, the multiple costume changes saw Max in variations upon her signature glittery looks. My only criticism would be that during these changes the audience were left in an often-awkward silence which could have been filled with a musical segue or brief dance outro.

Where such segues were more successful, instead, were during Max’s discussion of the hate and criticism that she has received throughout her career. Playing a voiceover that read out various tweet and headlines, she then went on to perform a string of empowering numbers such as her viral ‘Not Your Barbie Girl’ and the iconic ‘Maybe You’re The Problem’ where she welcomed two delighted fans up onstage to dance. Her anthemic and uplifting performance certainly felt like a triumphant comeback in the face of such negativity.

Her anthemic and uplifting performance certainly felt like a triumphant comeback

I was pleasantly surprised to also see her slow down the pace for an acoustic number, which many singers of the dance-pop genre avoid. Whilst throughout the set it was often hard to hear her vocals over the much louder backing track, this moving rendition of ‘One of Us’ finally demonstrated her impressive belting, riffing and the more intimate side to her personality. Indeed, I hoped she would lengthen this acoustic section as I would have welcomed more.

Yet, she swiftly jumped back into the fast-paced songs that her fans love, showcasing the disco tracks from her latest album. The Kylie-like ‘Last Night On Earth’ had the crowd jumping and chanting along, whilst ‘Sleepwalker’ showcased her talented guitarist on the solo with exciting chemistry between them both.

Returning for the encore, Max finished with her club number ‘The Motto’, making it feel like more like a Friday than a Monday. Waving and dancing with joy, her personality shone through and demonstrated why she is so beloved by her fanbase.

Enjoyed this? You might also enjoy:

Live Preview: Ava Max

Single Review: Halsey – Die 4 Me

Live Review: Sleeping With Sirens