And we're not just saying that because we're scared of her
Dua Lipa photographed by Gem Harris; Charli XCX by Sergio Albert
Dua Lipa and Charli XCX had two very different approaches to their Big Pop Shows last night. For her part, Dua presented an immaculately controlled if slightly tame stadium-style performance on the enormous Pull&Bear stage, her many elaborately-choreographed dancers taking the pressure off the star to do anything other than let these undeniable songs speak for themselves. It’s been said before that Dua Lipa is hardly a beacon of raw charisma or confidence as a live performer, and that’s true of her slightly awkward, deer-in-the-headlights presence tonight; but with choruses as good as these, who cares?
The contrast with Charli XCX couldn’t be starker. Over on the Tous stage, her setup is far simpler and more compact, with Charli and two extremely well-drilled backing dancers attacking their swooning audience with a barrage of almost comically powerful tracks. Heavy hitters like ‘Lightning’, ‘Gone’ and ‘Baby’ thunder out early, punctuated by peals of “It’s fucking Charli, baby!” whenever Charli thinks we need a nudge. The dance routines are brilliantly intense, part ballroom, part ballet, part kickboxing display; combined with Charli’s constant barks of “Make some fucking noise! Are you with me Primavera? Fucking come on!”, it really does feel like if she spots you reacting with anything other than hysterical adoration, she’ll kick the shit out of you.
In a rare moment of tenderness, ‘Boys’ is dedicated to her LGBTQ+ fans and received rapturously, before the likes of ‘New Shapes’ and ‘Good Ones’ up the energy again, blasting out in a whirlwind of massive hooks and imploding production. She plays for a solid hour, barely pausing for breath, but you feel like she could very easily double that, with the amount of bangers she’s had to leave out of tonight’s setlist.
Don’t get me wrong, Dua Lipa is great tonight – but this set from Charli XCX is on another level, and the disparity really highlights how far ahead of everybody else she still is, having been right on the vanguard for several years now. She seems to understand pop music on a more profound level than more or less anybody else working at the moment, and she’s (more than) confident enough to turn that preternatural insight into an exhilarating live show.