As the first snow of the season blew wickedly outside of First Avenue last night, the inside of the building was packed and ready for a sold out show headlined by the electric angel that is Charli XCX. The British-born artist stopped by the Cities to tour her latest album, ‘Charli’, which came out just last month. This was her first time back to the Cities since opening for Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’ tour at U.S. Bank Stadium in August of last year. A lot has also happened for Charli since then. On top of releasing a new record, she put out new tracks featuring artists such as Lizzo, BTS, Haim, and more. Charli is always serving her fans more and more quality music, so it only made sense that she would bring the house down last night.
Opening the evening was rising star Dorian Electra. The Houston native released their first album titled ‘Flamboyant’ in July of this year and has since been playing shows at different cities’ Pride festivals and other events around the country. Electra focused their thirty minute set around songs off of the new record, all centered on self expression, love, and, being unapologetic. The artist was also accompanied by two backup dancers rocking their leather harnesses matching Dorian’s energy. The audience was fired up, singing and jumping along to songs such as Man to Man, Daddy Like, and Musical Genius. It can be tough as an opening act to gain an entire crowd’s attention, but Dorian didn’t even have to ask. The audience ate up the entire performance and rooted them on.
During their song ‘Live By the Sword’, Electra’s backup dancers wielded styrofoam knives and matching choreography that ended with throwing their props for the audience to catch. Those who were lucky enough to catch one waved them proudly in the air, adding to the energy. Certainly, Dorian is on their way to becoming a household name as well as pop royalty. The future is definitely a bright one for this futuristic pop star.
Primed by Electra’s set, the audience was more than ready for Charli. The sold out crowd chanted her name in unison as the stage techs were busy changing sets. The crowd was hungry, and they knew Charli would not disappoint. When the lights finally went out, an audio recording of Charli loudly filled the room. The message from Charli to her fans expressed her excitement and gratitude while also thanking and naming her collaborators and her tour support. The message finished with a bold, ‘I’m gonna take you to heaven and take you to the next level’. Within moments, she made good on that promise.
Charli’s set began with the opening track to her newest record, ‘Next Level Charli’. In the center of the stage stood a massive pulsating block of colors surrounded by rows and rows of lights running up, down, and across. As each song began, the crowd was immediately absorbed into the visual wonderland that seemed typical of a Charli XCX show, and fans couldn’t get enough of it.
While First Avenue’s Mainroom stage is big enough to fit any size band or production, Charli proved that she can provide more than enough energy even all by herself. She is a powerhouse who is easily likeable to anyone wanting to celebrate, dance, and party. As much as Charli’s fans loved her, it was obvious how much she loved them back. Throughout the show, she interacted often with her fans, including when she took out her phone to record one fan in the front row near the beginning of her set. She also brought four lucky fans up one by one on stage to dance to her party anthem ‘Shake It’. One such lucky fan was Nadirah McGill, the drummer of Twin Cities’ own Gully Boys. She hugged them all and danced right along with them as though they had been friends for years.
Throughout the show, Charli ran laps around her stage and sang to her ecstatic sea of fans, but when it came time for the encore, she knew she could squeeze even more energy out of them. Leading into her final set, her audience screamed for her even louder than First Avenue’s sound system. Charli returned and played four more of her biggest songs, including Lock It, Boys, and 1999. If there was a pinnacle moment to the crowd’s energy, it was definitely during her performance of her featured song ‘I Love It’ by Icona Pop. All in attendance sang along to the catchy 2012 hit and did so fiercely and joyfully. As the lights pulsated the crowd jumped in sync, and Charli did no less. The energy remained both palpable and contagious, uniting everyone into something bigger, even if just for a night.
If you’ve never seen Charli XCX live in concert, you’re in for a ride — a very energetic, colorful, powerful, and accepting ride. You’d likely leave wondering when you could buy a ticket to see and hear her again. You can expect this Cambridge pop queen to continue her non-stop success while bringing her many fans along for the ride.