On Saturday night, Christine and the Queens sold out the 2,000-capacity Wiltern theater in Los Angeles, and standing in the pit surrounded by screaming fans was an interesting experience, as they were screaming so loud that it was sometimes difficult to even hear the voice of the famous French chanteuse.
Héloïse Letissier arrived on stage with her dancers and musicians under boisterous acclamations from the crowd, and they right away launched a dance number so brilliant and so aerial, with a choreography so well-rehearsed that it could have made Broadway dancers beam of jealousy… I immediately thought that she must have been watching a lot of Michael Jackson videos growing up, as there was an obvious emulation, but a genuine acknowledgment arrived much later during the show, when she started singing a few lines of ‘Man in the Mirror’ at the end of ‘Nuit 17 à 52’. However, she did the prince of pop like a triumphant queen and a large dose of theatrics, which transformed the performance into something falling between a musical show with a message and a Cirque du Soleil number.
Christine, Chris, is the main character of this always-dancing spectacle with breathtaking visuals and serial photo-op pauses: the dancers constantly jump, fly and do cartwheels, sometimes they move in slow motion, or they gather around Christine and spread apart, in front of a tormented sea decor. The ballets are as fluid as the message of the music about gender fluidity, and the dance numbers are done with the same ease than the two-languages fluency of the songs (she sings in English and in French) while Chris resonates like a defiant hero, not missing a line of the songs despite her repetitive athletic prowess. They opened with ‘Comme Si’ which made her announce her independence declaration at the first song: ‘There’s pride in my singing/The thickness of a new skin/I am done with belonging’…
Surrounded by a parterre of LGBTQ people, I heard her reassuring everyone by saying several times ‘you are in a safe place’ before engaging into another super kinetic number, and for the entire show, there certainly was question of this new thick skin. Héloïse has morphed into Chris, this woman-macho man, reassuring everyone, with her red shirt wide open showing her tough body, all sweaty lean-muscle with a boyish haircut, wearing her lips swollen and dancing as if she were ready to fight.
She bent many times but never broke, rebounding with grace on her ‘80s-inspired buoyant dancefloors, growing fiercer and sexier song after song, with a swag making girls and boys scream, all caught in the same gender confusion. The show occasionally slowed down for emotional songs such as ‘Make Some Sense’, that she sang alone on stage, all lights focused on her face, but soon there was another post-disco dance track, injected by a retro-funk tempo, and executed to perfection by her troupe. Her unshakeable confidence exploded on stage, and her pain soared like a column of smoke during a deeply emotional ‘What’s-Her-Face’, but she always sounded like a fire ready to spread without any limits.
Chris was a compelling and loveable character, embracing with confidence her state of nonbelonging. All night long she charmed the crowd with her coolest sexiest gender-confusion character, reappearing in the middle of the crowd after an encore, looking like a pansexual version of a Dangerous Jackson without his sister’s wardrobe malfunction, even when she voluntary removed her oversized red shirt to show her body toughened by repetitive dance performances.
Now 30, Letissier seems to have worked very hard to earn her place in the pop pantheon, she is aiming high while looking at her favorite music icons and she is now an international success with many awards under her belt, and an artist befriended by Elton John and getting on stage with Madonna.
The character is so big, the meticulous choreography so exciting, the synchronicity so perfect, and the visuals so stunning, that it’s easy to forget about the music itself, a collection of pop songs impregnated by funk, ‘80s synth and her great voice always surfacing despite the stadium-worthy yelling coming from the audience. The show sweated great professionalism, pop performance of the year, mixing swagger and sadness, sensuality and pain, sexuality and emotion, and a great moment of the show happened during a very sexual dance between Chris and one androgynous dancer, with white smoke making the dancer evaporate at the end of the song.
Christine and her Queens did slay the stage and beyond with a mesmerizing performance, a courageous and unapologetic creativity, and a glittering pop often sounding like a homage to her music icons. On stage, she was wearing her open red shirt like Perfume Genius wears his red lipstick, embracing gender ambiguity without any regret and empowering every head in the crowd at the same time.
Make Some Sense
Les paradis perdus (Christophe cover)
Feel So Good
Damn (What Must a Woman Do)
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