In the final countdown to Christmas, and with a horrible lack of parties, pubs and fun for the most part, we’re all in need of something resembling some festive cheer. In her typical camp and comical style, Dublin’s self-proclaimed global pop sensation CMAT is here to save the day. “I’m planning a really funny Christmas television special,” she admitted to NME back in October before making us promise to keep it under wraps. “By mentioning it in an interview, it means that I actually have to do it.”
As an artist who has only released music through this year’s lockdowns, it feels only right that she’s embracing the world of virtual shows. Titled ‘CMAT’s Very Nice Christmas’, tonight’s shindig finally brings an end to her months of “sending emails and crying”. From the offset, it’s not your typical PG-affair. Fried Plantain Collective’s Osara takes on the role of Santa Baby, decked out with a glitter moustache and an equally-as-brazen sequined blazer. “I’m Father Christmas, not Bill Gates,” she frustratedly confirms after reading out a Christmas list pleading for a platinum mine in return for “a slip of the stockings”.
Following Osara’s opening regards, the lights dim and focus turns to the hero of the night. One shuffle, charismatic smile and single strum later, CMAT takes centre stage. Not needing an intro, it’s straight into her debut track ‘Another Day (KFC)’. This acoustic take on her ode to chicken shop breakdowns has the original’s energy, but the raw, stripped-back arrangement plays out favourably to her Skeeter Davis-style vocals. “This is where the saxophone solo goes, but I couldn’t afford that so got two drag queens instead,” she declares. As Viola Gayvis and Maura Darragh reveal themselves, it’s less rocking around the Christmas tree and more straight-up mocking of the 5”2 pop star as their sultry sways tower heads above her perfectly coiffed do.
Throughout the show, panto-style feigned audience participation is rife calling for a ‘he’s behind you moment’ as a creeping Santa pops up at any occasion he can. He’s not the only special guest though, next off the conveyer belt of Irish musical talent is angelic trio Maija Sofia, Rachael Lavelle and Rosa Nutty, whose delicate cover of The Carpenters’ ‘Merry Christmas, Darling’ is a much-needed calming interlude from the hectic in-betweens.
Joining CMAT for a peak at new track ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’ are folk duo Lemoncello, who set aside their cello for a synchronised ’70s dance routine comprised of it all, even the Batusi. The heartfelt acoustic number retells the tale of a troubled relationship, while harking back to Kate Bush’s delicate yet unreckoned force with its strong falsetto chorus. Another strong woman not to be reckoned with is Maura Darragh, Ireland’s self-declared third most iconic Maura. The drag queen returns from her brief feature earlier in the night for a hilarious tongue-in-cheek, nasally-refresh of Mariah Carey’s festive staple ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’.
The festivities continue for what seems like the worst deal going. In return for two goose fat cream liqueurs, CMAT dons a rainbow tinsel coat, noughties square-framed sunnies and shitloads of attitude for a club classic reboot of her tribute to Rodney Dangerfield, ‘Rodney’. Whether it be crawling along Whelan’s bar front or sliding down the stairs, shoe in hand, the verified banger draws all the theatrics together for one final showdown before things start to mellow.
The second act is world’s away from the bonkers shenanigans we’ve just been exposed to. From Junior Brother exploring the real Christmas woes in acoustic tearjerker ‘Hungover at Mass’, to Pillow Queens popping in to reimagine their distortion-dripping hit ‘Liffey’ as full acapella, the mood switches to one of those shut up and listen moments. Not to mention, the former’s sweet, yet melancholy CMAT Christmas collab for ‘Unforgettable Christmas’.
It wouldn’t be a party without some Western to wrap things up. Right? With the final outfit change of an iconic emerald mesh dress paired with cow print platforms, it’s soon time for a group effort of ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!’. Far less bastardised country than the original, the haunting folk styles from both Lemoncello and Junior Brother draw together a perfect contrast to CMAT’s powerhouse vocals.
It’s not just the musical numbers and endless costume changes that made tonight a hit, but CMAT’s sheer attention to detail and comedic timing. From her BTS phone case hinting at her not-so-secret stan alter-ego, to creating her own merch advert in the venue toilets, she’s a real creative force to be reckoned with. It just shows that virtual events can be as imaginative and fun as their live counterparts. We’ll probably be watching gigs from behind a screen for a while longer, so now the bar’s been raised, let’s keep it there.