Review, Christine and the Queens, O2 Academy Birmingham

Christine and the Queens. Image: Gaelle Beri

Christine and the Queens rolls up her sleeves and gets stuck in at O2 Birmingham Academy.

A Birmingham show on a Monday can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, but the Academy was packed, sweaty and sold out for Christine and the Queens.

“She’s here, she’s here and she’s fucking queer!” screams a guy no older than 20 with a slicked back bowl-cut and a baggy white jumper, who would later go on to slut drop during ballads and severely annoy his mother. Here and queer Christine is though, and the cheers as she joins her dancers onstage are deafening.

Dressed in tight jeans and an oversized red shirt, Christine looks a bit like the leader of the Sharks in West Side Story, Bernardo. The dancing too, with its elements of ballet, has a bit of a Broadway vibe but the gig is certainly not indebted to it.

The one and a half hour show is long enough for her to draw upon the bulk of her back catalogue with a weighting towards her recently released long player, ‘Chris’. The new album is soaked in Prince-like production and songwriting, some might say it’s derivative but I’m good with it, she brings a new voice tinged with millennial discourse.

The biggest cheers are saved for the tracks like her worldwide radio smash, ‘Tilted’, and new biggie ‘5 dollars’ and the approach to performance throughout elevates each and every track.

It’s a wondrously theatrical and conceptual show, but in an age where all the technology, pomp and circumstance that money can buy being splashed out on, the tools that are used in this performance are notably primitive and modest. The impact, however, is as massive as it is elegant.

The dancers are a huge aspect of the performance and seem to serve a number of purposes through the show. Sometimes the songs become silent plays set to music and at others, the dancers are an extension of Christine. Enhancing her sensuality, her aggression, her femininity, her masculinity – she is amplified by the bodies on the stage.

For all its art, it’s a show that Cracked Actor-era Bowie would probably appreciate.

As a result of all this attention to detail, it’s impossible to cover the intricacies of each track and do them justice. Goya Soda was a personal highlight, snow falls during the intro followed by a plume of green smoke that hangs in the air for the majority of the song she acts out a scene with a male dancer that portrays tensions and affections and culminates in an embrace that literally smoulders as the dancer’s jacket begins to pump out smoke, it’s an affecting visual.

An acapella performance of ‘Nuit 17 a 52’ which concludes with a refrain of Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In The Mirror’ is another beautiful moment.

One of the lasting impressions is just how personable she is. Plenty of stars proclaim their love of and debt to their fans at every show they play, and whilst the crowd will scream, cry and be touched by her every word, they still feel inaccessible or unrelatable. Some might think that’s part of the star/audience relationship, but Christine is a star, yet she transcends that distance. She does this through humility and humour, I suppose.

I say she shows humility but she’s pretty proud of herself, “I want to ring my mum and show her you all and say ‘look, it’s a real job, it’s working!’”.

It certainly worked in Birmingham tonight. Bravo, Christine, Bravo!

Words: Gareth Griffiths

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