Charli XCX 2022
Charli XCX 2022 | Credit: Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage

Charli XCX Review – Ecstatic Devotion at “Tiny” Melbourne Gig

Charli XCX performed at Melbourne’s Northcote Theatre on Thursday, 2nd March. Billy Burgess reviews.

“This is for my angels,” sang Charli XCX through an Auto-Tune filter. We were about halfway through ‘party 4 u’, just as the song’s tenor shifts from desperate to delirious, and Charli had good reason to believe there were some day-one angels in the house.

“Coming to see me in a tiny venue,” she continued, voice still doused in Auto-Tune. The shoutout gave the song’s ad nauseam chorus hook – “I only threw this party for you” – a new kind of resonance. On record, ‘party 4 u’ is a metaphor for being discarded by a one-time lover. But at Melbourne’s 1500-cap Northcote Theatre – a venue that could only be regarded as tiny by an artist of Charli’s stature – it felt like confirmation we’d gained entry into an exclusive club.

Charli XCX – ‘party 4 u’

The crowd was in good humour, sharing knowing smiles and ecstatic hugs in between dancing and belting out the lyrics to each song with expert accuracy, if not always nailing the pitch. Onstage, Charli – here to conclude the global tour behind 2022’s ARIA number one album, CRASH – didn’t let her patent professionalism suppress her party girl vibrancy.

CRASH, while not as loose and irreverent as 2016’s Vroom Vroom and 2017’s Pop 2, is as energetic and accessible as anything in the UK artist’s catalogue. This allowed Charli to perform all but two of its tracks without disrupting the flow of the setlist.

Some songs didn’t land. The forbidden love ballad ‘Every Rule’, a song about “my ex-boyfriend,” in Charli’s words, felt lacklustre next to the breathy lust of ‘Baby’. ‘Yuck’, while an apt song title for a pop artist with a penchant for disruption, sounded more like the sort of indistinct pop candy Charli might donate to another artist.

But the vast majority of the 20-song setlist hit. ‘Gone’, perhaps the best mainstream pop song this side of Rihanna’s ‘Work’, was an early highlight, causing everyone to sing their guts out to the line “Why do we keep when the water runs,” never mind its enigmatic syntax. The Rina Sawayama collab ‘Beg For You’ felt like a sequel to ‘Gone’, and came close to matching its anthemic power.

Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens – ‘Gone’

Charli more or less phoned in her breakthrough solo hit ‘Boom Clap’, but the Melbourne crowd was only too happy to pick up the slack. This gave Charli an opportunity to let loose freed of the choreography, while her onstage companions, dancers Grant Gillmore and Nathan Kim, took a rest backstage.

Charli is an aggressive dancer by nature. She was a regular at raves and underground club events in her teen years, and this came through in her big, purposeful dance moves. Kim’s choreography was always complementary, likewise the neon video projections, which occasionally – such as in the glistening pop of ‘Boys’ – turned Northcote Theatre into a kawaii-themed karaoke bar.

Charli’s performance of ‘Vroom Vroom’, a completely ridiculous yet no less brilliant hardcore electronic pop song, was as wild and generous as the rapt crowd might’ve anticipated. The night’s final song, the ‘Sweet Dreams’-ish ‘Good Ones’, showed that even when Charli pens a hook for the people in the cheap seats, her personality continues to burn bright, placing her in a tier above the majority of her contemporaries.

Further Reading

Sugababes Review – Turn of the ’00s Pop Excellence

Rina Sawayama Review – No Genre Left Unturned at Artist’s Queer Rodeo in Sydney

Charli XCX Announces Australian Headline Shows for 2023

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