Words: Emma Madden
It’s 7pm in Paris, and the sky looks as though cigarettes have been burned out on it. A long line of fans, Apple employees and journalists (and people who look important) are waiting for the doors to open at Salle Pleyel, where Christine and the Queens, or ‘Chris’ as she’s recently rebranded herself, will perform. It might be jarring to see industry men dressed in corduroy waiting to see a show from such an explicitly queer and vaudevillian pop performer, but Chris is a self-described Trojan Horse of pop music. Tonight is only proof that she’s managed to weasel her way in.
The show tonight is divided into two parts. First, we watch an Apple-made documentary on the creation of ‘Chris’. We see her outside of the stage space, where it’s clear she feels less settled. “When you live life as a queer person, you always have to deconstruct so much, because nothing fits you and nothing is made for you,” she says. Onstage, though, in a world of her own making, she has her “safe place because there’s a sense of self acceptance.” The screen lifts to reveal Chris dancing on a stage washed in orange, and she’s backed by six other dancers. The stage is a recreation of the dance studio we’d just seen in the video – right down to the last detail. Coffee cups on chairs, a fan, clinic white lights, two barres. Offstage and onstage colliding, art bleeding into life.
“Chris is a self-described Trojan Horse of pop music“
She performs the upcoming album’s opener ‘Comme Si’, a song about the intimate connection between the musician and her listener. The choreography is meticulous; Chris and her dancers are in perfect synchronicity. She moves like her bones are filled with air, cutting shapes with the kind of swagger that could fill a stadium with screaming girls. No wonder Apple are invested. Chris might well be the next Justin Bieber.
While the audience project a straightforward desire onto this heartthrob, the ensemble of dancers on stage represent conflicting emotion. They push away Chris, who moves desperately towards them during ‘Girlfriend’. They tangle themselves up in conflicts — they argue, wrap themselves around one another, try to escape — and a strobe light flickers as the dancers fight in slow motion. The music stops and the band, who are silhouetted behind the stage curtains, play the instrumental for ‘Goya Soda’. Chris and the ensemble move towards the rear of the stage, where they’re seen arguing behind a window. Chris’ stage design is super-smart: the argument is both beautifully theatrical and somewhat lifelike; it looks as though we’re peering into something we’re not supposed to see backstage.
At the end of each song, Chris is left alone, but she saves her saddest and loneliest song for last. She performs ‘La Marcheuse’ while drenched in blue light as she slowly walks on the spot. “It hurts – I feel everything,” she sings, “As my sense of self is wearing thin.” She finishes to a long standing ovation, and it’s clear that what we’ve just seen is one of this year’s most slick and masterful pop performances, but that was just the teaser. This was only a perfected rehearsal, a taste of Chris’ parade of sex, swagger and sadness. And it was damn near perfect.