The French pop sensation stuns at her Birmingham date, with a performance that invokes the giants of pop
‘This is a reinvention! This is a reimagining! This is a rebirth!’
So shouts Héloïse Letissier, the French singer-songwriter behind Christine and the Queens, at her show in Birmingham last month. Fresh off the back of a hugely successful sophomore LP Chris, a record which reinvented the artist’s sound to spectacular effect, Christine’s latest tour is a reawakening of the theatrical, bombastic pop performances of days gone by – while also retaining an intimacy that has always been notably missing from the modern high-gloss concert.
In a venue as relatively small as that in Birmingham’s O2 Academy, a quiet hum of excitement buzzed from wall to wall as a never-ending procession of musicians and performers gathered amidst the shadows of the stage. The show started in a unique fashion, with lights rising on a scene of characters whispering together, more of an amateur dramatic vision than a musical one. These whispers turned into exclamations, ‘Chris!’, as the show’s titular performer slinked onto the stage and kicked into opener ‘Comme si’ with all the poise and confidence of a young Michael Jackson. From this the band kicked immediately on into Dâm-Funk collaboration ‘Girlfriend’, providing a blistering round of G funk that served to immediately cast the entire venue in rich shades of wobbling synthesisers and turquoise light.
Christine, alongside an insanely well-choreographed cast of backing dancers, ducked and wove their way through 60 minutes of the best of her two records (the length of the set itself testament to the superb quality of both the new album and 2015 debut Chaleur Humaine), including beautifully understated versions of ‘Make Some Sense’ and ‘Paradis Perdus’ and an irresistibly groovy rendition of old favourite ‘Science Fiction’. The shapeshifting figure of Chris herself was front and centre in a show that did its best to celebrate ‘weirdness,’ with Humaine highlights ‘iT’ and ‘Titled’ standing up wonderfully alongside the singer’s newly androgynous explorations ‘5 dollars’ and ‘The stranger’.
Letissier simply oozes charisma; her effortless ability to flit between the sheer 80s sex of ‘Damn (what must a woman do)’ and the intensely personal nakedness of ‘The walker’, which brought the show down in a dazzling cascade of sand and soft yellow lighting, was truly something special to witness. Reappearing on the venue’s balcony a couple of minutes later for her encore, Christine closed the set with a perfect example of her chameleonic stage presence: an intimate ‘Saint Claude’ led into ‘Intranquilitié’, performed in all its bombastic disco glory to the rapture of an audience that she had kept steadfast in the palm of her hand for the entire evening.
This show felt far too large for the venue in which it was held. There can be no doubt that Christine and the Queens are one of the best live artists around right now, and it is not merely feasible to imagine Letissier bringing this show to the largest of stages – this is an inevitability. She is the next Michael Jackson: an essential reinvention of the star formula that has always catapulted those special few to the very top. Unquestionably 2018’s queen of pop.
Chris is out now via Because Music.