Shygirl’s headline show at iconic queer venue Heaven has felt like a long time coming. Originally, the London artist was supposed to tour her twisted club-pop back at the beginning of 2021, but all the plans were thwarted by strict restrictions around indoor shows – and after announcing a new set of shows for November last year, she was forced to postpone a second time.
Still, the versatile rising name kept busy in the meantime, linking up with Mura Masa to rework Lady Gaga‘s BLACKPINK-featuring ‘Chromatica’ track ‘Sour Candy’ (on 2021’s remix record ‘Dawn of Chromatica’) releasing the deliciously filthy ‘BDE’ alongside Slowthai, and incorporating flourishes of string arrangement into her latest single ‘Cleo’. When those theatrical hums of violin make way for a relentlessly pounding bassline, it feels like Madonna’s ‘Frozen’ being dragged into a basement of thrashing limbs under flickering strobes.
In the opening segment of the show, accompanied by a live string quartet, Shygirl summons up the same sense of drama. Bolstered by her own personal orchestra, she teases out the intricacies of opener ‘Cleo’ and transforms mangled, industrial-sounding dance tracks like ‘Rude’ (from 2018’s EP ‘Cruel Practice’) into something more tricksy. Deviating from ‘ALIAS’ helium-stutter opener ‘TWELVE’ with a reworked version of its spoken-word interlude, the string section backs up Shygirl with the trilling string part from Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’ (also sampled by Coolio in ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’). “What’s too good?” she asks with a smirk, “too easy, too sweet. Come and find me, I’m free at 3.” When the next verse kicks in at full, pounding pelt, the entire place goes wild.
These considered touches pepper the show, which spans majority of Shygirl’s back catalogue. The pulsing house piano stabs of a mashed-up version of ‘TASTY’, the frantic eurotrance hooks of ‘SIREN’ and ‘SLIME’s twisted, trilling take on trap are all standouts, but elsewhere, it’s a setlist that continually mixes things up. Delighting little monsters everywhere, that pulsing ‘Sour Candy’ remix gets a live outing, along with a brand new song that delves into different subject matter. “It’s not always about sex!” Shygirl protests with a smile, shortly before airing the sugary and upbeat untitled newie. And punctuated by playfully charged moans, 2019 fan favourite ‘UCKERS’ retains all of its brilliant filth live: “I got that soul-destroying pussy,” she boasts, “I’m collecting triple fee”. Shortly after wrapping up the latter, she points out her parents proudly looking on. “I actually have my family in the audience,” she laughs, “and I thank them for all of this.”
After a teasing disappearance from the stage – interrupted by winking stage lights, and a campy flurry of confetti shortly before return – Shygirl returns for a surprising encore. Here, a second new track gets an early airing, followed in quick succession by her 2019 single ‘BB’.
Perhaps as a result of the delayed gratification of tonight’s twice-postponed show – along with Shygirl’s increasingly versatile output in the meantime – her biggest headline show yet feels less like an introduction, and more like a victory lap for one of pop’s brightest and most innovative new stars.