Love, fear and death collide in an ambitious conceptual performance that finds Chris reaching new heights
“As you’ve suspected now, this is not your regular gig!” so states Chris, better known by the moniker Christine and the Queens, to an array of confused faces gazing up from the front row. The room is over a third of the way through the 20-track experience that is Paranoïa, Angels, True Love, and fans have already seen Chris ricochet across the stage with attuned, though seemingly reckless, precision.
The locale should have given away some of the mystery; it is unusual that a young, internationally successful pop star performs in a classical environment such as Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. A string of summer festivals including Glastonbury and Chris’ high-profile curation of Meltdown at London’s Southbank Centre should also have belied his increasingly conceptual ideal, one that has only grown more ambitious with each album since his 2016 debut, Chaleur Humaine.
To be within spitting distance of the spectacle is something to behold. Long gone is the bright disco in favour of moody, cinematic trip hop. The stage is scattered with Rodin-esque statues; the angels contemplative, the lion an icon of strength and bravery. A dark coffin sits centre stage, overlooked by a ladder reaching for the heavens from which Chris descends celestially during the performance of ‘Overture’, the opening to the recent fourth album.
Pain has haunted Chris since the sudden death of his mother in 2019, the grief of which impacted his 2019 EP, La Vita Nuova. This musing on death continues here: purgatory narrated by Madonna’s bodiless voice; Chris’ guttural cries of raw emotion segueing into joy as his limbs find elastic echoes of Michael Jackson. There’s a brief respite before a chaotic maelstrom as he claws at his maker above during 11-minute epic, ‘Track 10’. The tale makes all the more sense in knowing Chris’ vision was inspired by Tony Kushner’s seminal play, Angels In America, and its symbolic examination of the 1980s AIDS crisis.
Despite being without dancers and, for all intents and purposes, a one-man show, Chris is not alone in his struggle and self-mourning. His band step forth with a bouquet, dressing Chris in a tailcoat with black wings. Ready for war, he takes to the crowd for ‘He’s been shining for ever, your son’. Chris embraces the audience and absorbs their love. Should the worst happen, he will still be here, forever in their hearts.
Credit: Steve Thorne / Getty