Village Underground, 19/6/2018
Last year, Charli XCX released her ‘Pop 2’ mixtape. It was a brilliant, breathless 40 minutes of experimental pop music, full of bold collaborations with big name stars (Carly Rae Jepsen, Alma, MØ) and rising stars (Kim Petras and Tommy Cash, to name but two), and it was a total triumph. Since its release last year, XCX has played a series of Pop 2 shows, each receiving glowing reviews and boasting guest appearances from the stars of ‘Pop 2’. Now, in between her shows supporting Taylor Swift on a worldwide tour, XCX found the time to bless London with a ‘Pop 2’ show, and it was biblical.
Compared to the arenas she’s been playing for the past few months, Village Underground is a small and intimate venue; but it was jam-packed full of diehard fans who were lucky enough to get their mitts on tickets (the London show sold out within minutes). And as soon as XCX bounded on stage, she totally commanded the audience. From the opening electronic whirs of ‘Unlock It’, the army of XCX stans reached frenzy point: every single lyric was screamed back, shirts were whipped off and the audience descended into a glorious, sweaty hot mess.
Of course, there was a revolving door of guests hopping on stage with XCX (she revealed who would be there a few hours before the show on Twitter). She was joined by Dorian Electra for a euphoric performance of ‘Femmebot’, rising star Raye came out for ‘Dreamer’ and pop sensation Rina Sawayama (who XCX met online after fans said she would like her) wrote an original verse for ‘Backseat’, especially for the show.
Then there was Estonian rapper Tommy Cash, who joined XCX for ‘Delicious’, before performing one of his own new tracks, ‘Mona Lisa’ A. G. Cook, and electronic extraordinaire SOPHIE who DJed the second half of the show. In short, it was a who’s who of the future of exciting, innovative pop music. Strobe lights and booming synth beats dominated the venue, with XCX acting as ringmaster in the neon-lit circus that is ‘Pop 2’.
Closing with the unreleased track ‘Girls’ Night Out’, where the entirety of the night’s guests came back on stage, you were left without a shadow of doubt that Charli XCX is the pop force to be reckoned with (halfway into the song Charli shouted out “tell my record label that we should release this as a single!”) She’s a star who constantly reinvents herself, from the sugary pop of ‘Boom Clap’ and the riot infused ‘Break the Rules’ (neither of which made an appearance on the setlist tonight), to the innovative, electronic avant-garde of her 2016 ‘Vroom Vroom’ EP, she’s a musical chameleon. Constantly taking bold creative steps, as well as showing herself as a true fan and champion of her musical peers with the spotlight she shines on them through collaborations and bringing them out a shows, XCX is the present, and the future, of pop music.
Midway through the show Charli boldly declared: “I may not be the biggest, but I’m definitely one of the best.” Not that it needed doing, but London’s Pop 2 show more than proved this.