Christine And The Queens
Headlining Brussels annual Summer Festival, Christine and the Queens show was a Life-affirming tour de force which showcased one of last years best albums and reminded me why I love going to live shows so much.
One of my favourite records from 2018 and what I’d argue as the most impactful and significant pop releases of the past few years was Christine and the Queens ‘Chris’. I’ve been regrettably late to the party when it comes to seeing Héloïse Letissie bring her Christine vision to life on the stage. A couple weeks ago though, I jumped on a Eurostar train and headed to Brussels to see a theatrical tour de force that packs an equal dose of punchy pop hits and emotional heft.
I could have not asked for a more spectacular setting in which to witness Christine take to the stage, to my left the beautiful foliage of Brussels Park, to my right the grandiose Royal Palace and then in between this, tens of thousands of locals dancing across the cobbled streets stretching back beyond my eyes view. The clouds above had already burst open and soaked the entire audience for the preluding few hours yet spirits remained high and the ecstasy of the audience could be heard in the screams that filled the air upon Christine taking to the stage.
Nearly a year since ‘Chris’ the album was released, you can see that the constant touring has turned Christine’s live show into a finely tuned machine. That’s not to say it doesn’t feel any less organic, thrilling or captivating. From the immediate burst of firecrackers and smoke as Chris bursts onto the stage for a showstopping performance of ‘Comme Si’ you have to catch your breath. Her movement is fluid and rapid as she bounces across the stage, dancing and linking up with her accompanying troupe. The energy of the track, a feeling of defiant joy is infectious. Immediately it doesn’t feel like I’m witnessing a Pop concert, this is a theatrical performance with a production on a massive scale.
It’s an incredible impassioned opening number and Chris manages to keep the energy flowing throughout, not afraid to throw some of her biggest songs into the mix early on. The Janet Jackson 80’s inspired ‘Girlfriend’ once again showcases the French songstresses fantastic choreography and ear for a fantastic pop melody as she struts across the stage flexing her muscles in a slickly timed routine.
Of course, Christine’s main output is her music and it’s within this she truly shines with some outstanding live vocals, evident in the powerful ballad ‘La Marcheuse’. As she powers along the walkway out into the thousands of people that have packed the cobbles of the Royal Palace, she’s surrounded by cheers and applause as her voice echoes throughout the Park.
By now Christine’s stage outfit of dark trousers and red shirt (which is occasionally discarded leaving her in a bra) is reminiscent of the King Of Pop, Michael Jacksons’ iconic movements and concerts. This gender fluidity and inclusivity is a key and positive part of shows which she declares a ‘safe space’, something that is explored in such a powerful and beautiful way during ‘iT’ and breakout single ‘Titled’.
Throughout the evening Chris effortlessly flows from impassioned Pop routines and hits such as the absolutely infectious ‘5 Dols’ which still remains the standout single of 2018 into heart wrenching vocal highlights such as the astounding and jaw-dropping ‘Saint Claude’ in which she is elevated high above the stage performing an epic sermon unto her disciples. There are so many of these countless, impressive moments throughout her set that stick deep into your mind. Whether it’s the powerful duet of ‘Doesn’t Matter’ which see’s Christine’s movements echoed at a frenzied pace by a backing dancer, he moves like her shadow, mimicking her movement. The way in which they remain in sync is a marvel to watch, the songs lyrics (the tale of a mind ripped into two, contemplating suicide is played out in front of you) the mania of indecision climaxes in a euphoric release as Christine, prone like a cat upon a set of steps leading to nowhere pours her heart into a powerful operatic crescendo, her dancer’s arms flailing like an erratic windmills. It’s mesmeric, mighty and brings her music to life.
Her use of sampling is also incredible, blending various genres, eras and her influences into her own sound. As she finishes ‘Whats-Her-Face’ she fluidly transitions into a stripped-back, echoing of ‘5 On It’ which is reminiscent of the parts used during John Peele’s eerie 2019 thriller Us, this itself is layered on top of her own cover of Kanye West’s ‘Heartless’, its transfixing as we’re only shown the back of Chris which flexes like a contortionist. It’s clear Hip-Hop plays a huge role in her influence when it comes to production and her high energy production, it’s a joyous surprise when confetti launches into the air early on and Christine bursts into a dance freestyle to Travis Scott’s ‘Sicko Mode’.
Christine is wonderfully un-traditional, she blends genre’s and music in such a modern and undefinable way, it’s contemporary and one of the best shows I’ve seen as a music aficionado and journalist. Not one to leave the stage quietly, she screams into the night sky over piercing electronic beats before the freeform chaos of disco, it’s a blend of France’s rich electronic heritage with a slight Chic edge as she just let's go and has fun to the beat of ‘Intranquillité’. At the end of the day maybe that’s what makes a Christine and The Queens gig so special because she encourages an environment in which to just let loose and experience the most enjoyable parts of music, the fun highs and the introspective emotional moments that bring tears to your eyes, ‘Give me everything’ she shouts and after an intense 75 minutes it feels like you truly have.
Comme si on s'aimait
Les paradis perdus
L'étranger (Voleur d'eau)
Doesn't Matter (Voleur de soleil)