Live Review: Christine and The Queens, 02 Academy Brixton, London 3rd November 2016

Christine and The Queens paints Brixton with magic markers

‘Chaleur Humaine’ looks like being just the beginning of things to come.

To say its been a slightly bonkers year for Christine and The Queens is something of an understatement. It all started to go a bit mad when Héloïse Letissier filled in for a drop-out at late notice, and did what’s commonly known as ‘a Future Islands’ on The Graham Norton show; that is, she changed everything with a single flooring telly performance. Her Glastonbury set - bittersweet in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum - was rightly tipped as the festival’s crowning moment. Standing ovations from Elton John, sold-out Roundhouses, gold-cert debut albums and… erm, on-stage spankings from Madonna also featured in a whirlwind 2016. Now, a whole two years on from releasing her debut ’Chaleur Humaine’ in her native France, Letissier is still riding the momentum of her breakthrough, and she’s got two sell-out nights at Brixton (and the frenzied crowd’s screams) to match it. Her repertoire might be tiny - to match her height, she quips - but a little old thing like that isn’t going to hold back Christine and The Queens. Last time she headlined London back in February, she showed all the potential of a top-league superstar. Tonight, she makes good on all of that kinetic promise.

Though many of Christine’s live staples remain untampered with - the flawlessly choreographed dance routines for ‘Tilted’ and ‘iT’, her note-perfect delivery, her cheery proclamation that the room is a “free zone,” and her heartfelt dedication to ‘Saint Claude’ - Letissier’s been making subtle changes to her show that pay off in dividends, all the same. With her silhouette flung behind her onto a blank white wall, Christine and The Queens play shadow puppets at times; trading in pixelated big screens for something far bolder and starker. Though those roses of hers appear knowingly front of stage again (along with several surprise additions flung by the front barrier) Letissier doesn’t just dedicate her flowers to Beyoncé. Instead, she throws all caution to the wind and begins her encore with an head-spinning take on Bey’s own song ’Sorry’, zooming back to the 80s in a gust of flamboyant synth and making it her own. And why shouldn’t she? By now, Christine and The Queens is very much part of the same pop bouquet. 

Last time Christine and The Queens was in London, she danced so hard she tore her trousers clean in two. This time, her suit survives intact, and instead, Brixton sees her ripping down every last expectation and boundary. With the French pop star (for a pop star is what she has become, over the last year) already at work on her second album, and a show with this much wiggle-room for innovation, ’Chaleur Humaine’ looks like being just the beginning of things to come.

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Photos: Poppy Marriott