Christine And The Queens live in London: pop provocateur triumphs at tiny gig, accompanied by a thrilling guest

MOTH Club, Saturday March 7, 2020: Alt.pop artist Caroline Polachek helps to make this intimate gig a seriously sweaty night to remember

“You know the lyrics. Wow! I really appreciate it,” says Christine And The Queens‘ Héloïse Letissier, opening her set with moody ballad ‘People, I’ve Been Sad’. If she’s surprised at the feverish devotion tonight’s MOTH Club audience has for her and the songs on her new EP ‘La Vita Nuova’, then you can count us in too. Barely a week has passed since she dropped the surprise record (and a month since that particular single), but it’s welcomed like an old classic.

That she can maintain that extreme level of engagement from the crowd for the most of the EP songs is testament to the sheer quality of her tracks and live performance. Letissier, or Chris as she’s come to be nicknamed (the title of her second album as well as her macho alter-ego), is a bona fide star, an endlessly creative force who’s as accomplished writing songs behind closed doors as she is making a spectacle on stage. And – as evidenced by ‘La Vita Nuova”s accompanying film – she’s rather fine actress too.

Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens on stage at London’s MOTH Club. Credit: Gaelle Beri

The visual spectacle that’s central to Chris’ live shows is limited tonight by virtue of MOTH Club’s tiny confines. There’s none of her (LA)HORDE backing dancers here, nor any silhouetting lighting design and smoke screen trickery. Instead we get a rare, pared-down, backing track-supported set that gives Letissier the chance to share her latest pop creations with just a few hundred fans.

If anything, ‘Je disparais dans tes bras’, Letissier’s sample-ridden, garage-lite dance track about wallowing in heartbreak, does fall a little flat after ‘People, I’ve Been Sad’. But perhaps its dancefloor pulse is lost to the venue’s tight space – not to mention the fact that Letissier is barely visible on stage, standing at 4ft 11in. Emotional performances of her bruised, love-wrought ballads ‘Mountains (we met)’ and ‘Nada’ help the crowd reconnect ahead of the moment everyone’s been waiting for.

Right on cue, Chris brings on fellow artist Caroline Polachek for ‘La Vita Nuova’, the pair’s irresistible 1990s dance paean to lust and love in which Chris transposes the medieval conception of courtly love as depicted in Dante’s classic work of the same name.

Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens on stage at London’s MOTH Club. Credit: Gaelle Beri

She and Polachek blur the expected lines of dominance, swapping places to embrace one another from behind. The shrieking from fans is something of a barometer for the levels of excitement here, but Chris and Caroline keep themselves composed in flawless, tuneful harmony, even if their characters have given in to desire.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get more intimate – or sweatier, for that matter – Chris climbs into the crowd for favourite ‘Titled’. The seas part and fans fall in to dance and sing with her. In some cases they quite literally bow down. It’s an affecting, collective reverence that carries right through to the end – closed off with a tease of ‘Gone’, Letissier’s 2019 collaboration with Charli XCX.

“The stage is constant catharsis,” Letissier says, panting. Consider us well and truly purged.

Christine and the Queens played:

‘People, I’ve Been Sad’
‘Je disparais dans tes bras’
‘Mountains (we met)’
‘La vita nuova’ (feat. Caroline Polachek)
‘5 Dollars’

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