The queues outside Concorde 2 signalled this was a gig a lot of people had been waiting a long time for. Soundcheck delays kept them waiting even longer, but, in the end, the wait was worth it. This was the first show of Charli XCX’s first ever headline tour and as she said herself, she was really happy to be kicking things off in Brighton. Judging by the twitter storm surrounding the gig and how many fans couldn’t get tickets, Ms Aitchison could have sold out a far bigger room than C2.
The rowdy crowd had warmly received support band CuckooLander, who did a fine job of keeping them entertained. They’ll be back in Brighton for The Great Escape and on the strength of this performance will be well worth catching. Of course, everyone was here for Charli and after what seemed like another overly long wait, she bounded on to stage raven hair flailing and middle finger raised.
Behind her, a naff wall of metallic curtaining looked like it had come straight out of a party shop bag, as did the angel wings and sparkly outfits sported by her all-girl backing band. Charli was wearing a slinky zebra print, Amy Winehouse war paint and towering heels. It wasn’t the best – or most original – of looks, but good looks aren’t really the 22-year-old’s strongest feature. Neither is having an especially distinctive voice. What she’s got though is bags of attitude. And she’s got it in spades.
As well as self-assurance, she’s also got all the pop star moves. She commanded both the stage and the audience, ordering them to get their hands in the air, to pump their fists and to clap along. They didn’t need asking twice and from start to finish the atmosphere was as if a big star was onstage. And there’s no doubting, Charli XCX does have star quality. There aren’t too many feistier young females around and having already helped pen huge hits for Icona Pop (‘I Love It’) and Iggy Azalea (‘Fancy’) and most recently, enjoyed chart success in America with ‘Boom Clap’, she’s brimming with the confidence that success inevitably brings.
No surprise then that her 20-song set contained more than its fair share of hits or that the audience lustily sang back every lyric. ’I Love It’ came early on, as did ‘Doing It’ (her collaboration with Rita Ora) while ‘Boom Clap’ was left to last. In-between, it was a non-stop sonic assault on the senses as her band (albeit with the assistance of more than a few backing tapes) laid down an impressively big sound to the songs.
Props for that must go to BIMM Brighton-alumni Debbie Knox-Hewson who was a powerhouse on the drums, bashing out tribal beats that at times were reminiscent of the likes of the Glitterband and Adam Ant in his heyday.
One of the best was ‘Need Ur Luv’ a girl group tribute she co-wrote with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij. To help her sing it she brought on Holly Hardy from CuckooLander (who used to play bass in Charli’s band) It was one of the highlight’s of the evening and showed that one of her biggest skills is in choosing who to collaborate with.
Another standout was ‘London Queen’ an autobiographical account of how her life’s changed: “I never thought I’d be living in the USA, doing things the American way.” Like so many of her songs – ‘I Love It’ being a perfect example – it features a shouty, girl-gang chorus, tailor made for audiences to shout along to.
“Brighton! Make some fucking noise!” she yelled. Of course, they already were, but the volume ramped up even higher.
On the evidence of this gig, the next time we see her not only will the venue be much bigger, but so will the show. Expect lots of costume changes and lots of visuals. As someone once said, pop music is something we hear with our eyeballs. Charli XCX has hers firmly set on becoming the next power pop princess. You’d be a sucker to think anything will get in her way!