Superlove: A date with Charli XCX live in London

Who? Charli XCX
When? 30 November 2013
Where? O2 Academy Islington, London

Pop is not a dirty word

Charli XCX live in London, O2 Academy Islington (30/11/2013)The growing queue outside the O2 Academy Islington is made up to a large part of an ecstatic army of girls and boys dressed in anime-style high-school outfits eager to see Charli XCX live in London.

Their fashion style, an identikit to their new pop idol, is made complete by their wild but clearly elaborate manes of Goth-lite – that’s lite not like – hairdos and ridiculously elevated, multi-coloured platform boots. Try imagining Siouxsie Sioux as Sporty Spice.

Here pop is not a dirty word and it certainly sets the scene. The picture receives a few raised eyebrows by passersbys – but that’s what pop music should do. That’s how we like it.

Pop diva with authentic street cred

After suffering through the bland hi-nrg disco of support act Mausi, the crowd welcomes Charli XCX like triumphant royalty returning home. Storming onto the stage to a thundering drum intro for Take My Hand, Charli XCX doesn’t allow her fans to breath and launches straight into What I Like, another number off her debut, True Romance.

From the moment ‘go’ the crowd is going berserk and Charli commands her audience like a seasoned pro. Her on-stage charisma, a blend of pop diva with authentic street cred, making her equally a part of the crowd as much as their adored leader.

Charli XCX performing I Love It!
(O2 Islington Academy, 30/11/2013)

Charli XCX - I Love It - o2 Academy Islington - 30th November 2013

It’s getting sexy at the pop boutique!

The observant listener already knows that Charli XCX has been shopping at the pop boutique and taken the best bits of the past 30 years with her. Next up is new single SuperLove and we’re moving from sci-fi pop to 80’s disco territory. It’s getting sexy!

Charli XCX has successfully managed to fuse 90s dance pop influences with left-field electronica, punk rock and 80s new wave elements. An unexpected but stunning cover of Bow Wow Wow’s 80s indie hit I Want Candy follows and underlines the latter.

With the crowd now close to reaching fever point, Charli XCX pulls out the global chartbuster hit I love It! that she wrote for US dance-duo, Icona Pop. The song, already infectious in the studio version, takes on a new form in the live set and is bursting with more attitude than you can shake a stick at. All the self-declared ‘authentic’ rockers and indie-scensters should take note: This girl can teach you a lesson. Check out the clip if you need proof.

I love it!

It’s the first time I’ve seen Charli XCX backed by her all-female live band. The sound is tough and loud and suits the large O2 Islington Academy perfectly. A little more rock than pop when I last saw her and she certainly has moved a long way from her early beginnings as a live club PA. The girl’s grown up! The good news: her edge has not been softened and we get plenty of stellar pop with an attitude.

Tonight’s London gig is Charli XCX’s first show back on home turf after yet another sold-out tour of the US where the True Romance star is slowly cracking a market most her male counterparts have been failing for decades. It will be seen whether she can build on the success with the follow-up (scheduled for June 2014) to her True Romance debut and be more than just a fleeting pop phenomenon.

There was no need to win me over. I already pledged my support but tonight I was reassured that Charli XCX is one of Britain’s best. Catch her live while you can.

Charli XCX performing Nuclear Season
(O2 Islington Academy, 30/11/2013)

Charli XCX - Nuclear Seasons (Live in London) 30/11/13

Take my Hand
What I lIke
Stay Away
I Want Candy (Bow Wow Wow cover)
I Love It
Set Me Free
Nuclear Season
Black Roses