It’s simultaneously strange and fitting to watch Charli XCX give her first performance of tracks from latest album ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ as she bounces around before an exposed brick chimney in her Tudor-style LA mansion. We’re more used to seeing her pulling the same moves in dark, sweaty clubs or heaving festival tents – locations where her glitchy Auto-Tuned pop feels a lot more at home.
Since the coronavirus pandemic brought the US to a halt in March, though, this house has become a lot more familiar to her fans. It’s featured in music videos and Instagram lives and was also where she wrote and recorded her new album – the first major quarantine record of this global saga. It might not be the dream place to witness her bring the songs on ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ to life for the first time, but it does at least make sense.
Unfortunately, although Charli is going as hard as she half-raps about in opener ‘Pink Diamond’, this charity live-stream show is beleaguered by technical issues. When it works, it’s simple but fun – a pastel, illustrated border framing the screen, occasional animations of clouds or pink and blue sparkles popping up.
Charli’s energy is clearly high as she drops to the floor for the bright, bubbling ‘Detonate’ or hops from foot to foot as she segues seamlessly between the juddering ‘Anthems’ and the slow-building tenderness of ‘Visions’. But these moments make the constant lagging, freezing or skipping all the more frustrating, offering glimpses of the euphoria that could have been. It couldn’t be more fitting for 2020 if it tried.
After the sweet and gleaming ‘Forever’, she grabs her laptop and a seat, intending to answer some questions from fans in the chatroom. “I don’t see any questions so I don’t know what to do,” she says to someone off-screen. After filling for a minute, she instead jumps on Zoom to chat with some special guests – drag queens Miss Toto, The Juicy Love and the brilliantly named FKA Twink – before heading to her garden to DJ.
The final part of her Boiler Room appearance is still hit by tech gremlins, but is the kind of silly fun we’ve come to expect from Charli. Her “totally live” set sees her press play on her laptop and then flail around to her own songs and dance bangers like T2’s ‘Heartbroken’ and Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’. Her guests, still on Zoom, dance along in the bottom of the screen while Charli throws out a range of bizarre shout-outs, from “Jennifer Lopez’s pink diamond from Ben Affleck” to her quiet Hertfordshire hometown of Bishop’s Stortford.
“Apologies for being the best DJ in the world,” she jokes as she starts to wrap things up. That crown might not be hers but, despite this show’s flaws, she’s clearly still the queen of all things partying. We’re counting down the days til we don’t have to rely on a stable server to reap the benefits of that.
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