"This is a safe space that we all share together. This is a space for reinvention, for changing your mind – for changing your name if you want to."
It's a bold and very modern statement with which to start a pop concert - but then, Héloïse Letissier is a very modern pop star.
Operating as Christine and the Queens, the Nantes-born artist has released two impeccably-produced, synth-driven albums. Her debut, 2014's platinum-selling Chaleur Humaine, struck a chord with its exploration of gender and identity, while this year's superior follow-up, Chris, she explains on stage at Manchester's O2 Apollo, was ‘a bit musclier and sweatier but the obsessions are very much the same’.
Live performance, however, finds the supremely confident Letissier upping the ante far beyond her recorded achievements. Accompanied by four musicians and a troupe of six dancers, she throws herself into full-blooded routines that give the likes of disco funk hit “Girlfriend” and the Springsteen-inspired “5 Dollars” a West Side Story air, armed with a voice that can switch instantly from a mutter to a strident cry. Unusual backdrops featuring land and seascape paintings are hoisted and discarded, lyrics flip between English and her native French and there are what may be oblique allusions to Brexit - we need 'empathy and tenderness', she says, 'especially now'.
Early single “Tilted” gets the biggest reaction but there are better moments. Fake snow and dry ice is deployed for “Goya Soda”, a song about a frustrating art gallery visit, and she trills the sad “Saint Claude” on a balcony in the circle, triggering mild hysteria among some quarters of the audience. She's clearly a bit of a hero to many.
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