Billed as ‘the best Halloween party ever’, Charlotte Aitchison’s first show in the capital since that now-infamous Village Underground rager during the ‘Pop 2’ era has been more than a year in the making, so her long-awaited return to the live stage was always going to be a night to remember.
Having sold out the 4,921 capacity venue, it’s as if all her devilishly-dressed Angels – the name she gives her stans – have assembled together for the biggest party of the year. Bouncing onstage in a fluffy white cape, appearing out of nowhere from between two giant colour-changing cubes, the room quickly turns into a full-on rave with eye-popping Fabric-style lasers flashing overhead during ‘Click’ while a confetti cannon showers the ecstatic crowd in pinks, yellows and oranges – much to their delight.
Lesser artists might save moments like this- or a hysteria-inducing unannounced appearance from Christine and the Queens on ‘Gone’ (which leaves the girl stood next to us screaming and crying on the floor) – for their grand finale. Still, when you’re Charli XCX, and you’ve got so many hits at your disposal, these are just small parts of the Next Level Charli Experience. Performing the entirety of her third and newest album ‘Charli’, as well as her poppier “global smashes” ‘Boys’, ‘1999’ and the Icona Pop-collab ‘I Love It’ near the close of a 20-track set, she has the entire room bouncing along and singing each word of every banger.
What’s most impressive is how easily she can switch things up, going from a full-brown club anthem like ‘Vroom Vroom’ to the near-ballad ‘White Mercedes’, then dialling things back up to 11 for ‘Unlock It’. Unsurprisingly, Charli is visibly overwhelmed by the rapturous response she receives; throughout the 90-minute show, she reinforces just how much love she has for her Angels, thanking them for getting her to where she is today. But rather than sounding contrived and forced, it comes across incredibly humble and heartfelt: at the close of the show, as she reminds us of all the different Charli phases there have been, she visibly starts tearing up. It’s heartening to see Charli’s vulnerable side and makes her even more relatable as an artist.
When she says, it’s a dream come true you really believe every word as a deafening applause erupts around the room. “This is some cheesy shit,” she warns… “I’ve been doing this for 11 years and through so many different phases as an artist. I’ve done big TV shows and been in the charts but realised that it didn’t make me happy. I changed my mind and decided to do whatever the fuck I wanted! You like me for me,” she says, beaming through the tears.
As tonight’s masterclass in futuristic pop proves, she made the right choice. A rose being thrown on stage while hundreds of Angels are elevated towards the heavens on their friends’ shoulders, is the perfect ending to arguably the greatest pop concert ever. “London, my name’s Charli XCX, but you already knew that,” she signs off, typically self-deprecating. “This has been the best pop concert of your fucking life!” It’s impossible to disagree with her.
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