Live Review Dua Lipa, AO Arena, Manchester 15th April 2022
Two years since the release of the all-conquering album, its shining wares are still unbeatable.
The very best pop stars know that high camp and just the right sprinkle of silliness can be two of the finest weapons in your arsenal. From Kylie’s confetti-strewn Glastonbury legends’ set complete with faux wedding, to Katy Perry’s iconic whipped cream-shooting boobs, a big, sparkling pop spectacle should be just that: two hours of escapism to a world in which love genuinely does conquer all and there’s little that can’t be solved with an outfit change and a well-placed dance break.
It’s a memo that Dua Lipa has undoubtedly clocked and that comes into practice from the opening seconds of the star’s long-overdue Future Nostalgia tour: a celebration of almost certainly the best pop album in recent memory, that catapults its author into the top tier of the world’s pop elite. Introducing the singer’s dance crew via a series of ‘80s Gladiators-style neon avatars, tonight - the opening Manchester date of the tour - expertly pushes the boundaries of cool, mixing the sexy and the silly into one joyous explosion with a consistently flawless soundtrack.
If Taylor Swift has her giant snake, then surely the unlikely hero of tonight is the massive inflatable lobster that bobs surreally in the background of ‘We’re Good’ as a nod to its high concept video. During ‘Electricity’, Dua and her dancers spin around á la ring-a-roses; in ‘New Rules’, they parade down the walkway wielding completely unnecessary umbrellas; clad in something akin to sexy skin-tight morph suits, the end of ‘Pretty Please’ writhes around like a strange, PG13 orgy. The whole spectacle could, in the wrong hands, be chaotic, but helmed by such effortless sass, with Dua it all makes complete sense.
Though the first half of the evening is a surprisingly understated warm up, the traditional arena show whistles and bangs largely dialled back in order to let the songs shine, come the final 45 minutes you can see where the money’s been spent. ‘Levitating’ is performed, of course, from a moving crane platform, with stars and moons lowered down from the rafters, while a giant light cube sets the stage for a club portion of the show that includes oldie ‘One Kiss’ and ‘Cold Heart’ - replete with Elton VT beamed onto the screen. Whoever ordered in the balloons for a mid-song drop needs to at least quadruple the numbers, but even the underwhelming sight of four and a half balls bobbing about sort of fits the retro tongue-in-cheek-ness of the show.
Perhaps the night’s finest moment comes, however, in its final encore, when Dua returns to the stage completely solo to deliver ‘Future Nostalgia’’s title track; writhing and hair-tossing like an indisputable superstar, it’s the sort of supremely confident move that only someone at the peak of their powers can pull off. Which is exactly where Dua Lipa, of course, is right now. And as the whole crowd erupts to a final joyful ‘Don’t Start Now’, it’s a mic drop on the sort of victory lap even some of the singer’s most successful peers can only dream of.
Dua Lipa plays Open’er (29th June - 2nd July) where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/festivals for more information.
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