Charli XCX: Virtual Performance Review

You know that sound you make when you suck in your breath through your clinched teeth? That’s the feeling I have writing this review. Jump ahead to the Q & A to see why.

I will begin with how much I love Charli. It’s a lot. I have loved her song writing since the moment I first heard it. You’re The One was pushed to me on a Spotify playlist and I was instantly hooked. My wife and I have driven across state-lines for an undersold Charli show and danced to “You’re The One” as our first dance. I saw her on her first U.S. tour at a non-sold-out show in Atlanta (at Vinyl) and have gone to every Charli live show I could afford to since then. I’ve been here since (almost) the beginning (missed her Myspace stuff, admittingly) and have watched her grow and grow, not only as a performer and songwriter, but as a human being. Tonight, the entire gambit of Charli XCX, from pop performer to human being, unfortunately whether she wanted it or not, was on display live for everyone to stream.

Bandsintown intro-ed the night’s performances from their host’s bedroom which was… weird, quite honestly. We’re a year into the pandemic and I too work from home but I feel like I expected this globally broadcast live performance to have a bit more, let’s say, class. Secondly, Charli XCX was the headliner but was performing first. This is odd to me, but I am going with the flow Bandsintown, let’s see where this takes us. As a live performer, I can tell you being billed AFTER the headliner was a death sentence. It was basically being told that you would be the exit music. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you have never been in a tiny touring band and you should be thankful for that one random thing tonight.

Charli’s performance was excellent, as usual. She worked her way through several different scenes, changing outfits in the process. She began the night in an epic closet mirror type space that allowed you to catch every move while she sang and danced through her latest, Spinning, a collaboration with The 1975 & No Rome. She performed her collaboration with Christine & The Queens, Gone, in this space as well.

She moved onto a luxurious bedroom scene as well as an enormous stage where although she was the single performer it never felt empty. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much was actually ‘live.’ I understand the performance was pre-taped, which for something that was billed as a live performance is kind of weak, but worse I’m not sure she was actually being captured by her mic most of the time. As an early fan who saw several shows with a live band I didn’t expect to see that but to have Charli only perform to a backing track seems to relegate her music to the world of PC pop which I personally don’t want to do. To go even further and have the performance focus on her dancing instead of her voice I worry that she is moving further and further away from the songwriter and performer I believe she was years ago.

No judgement, Charli is amazing and can do what she wants. I just miss seeing her perform in that way.

The setlist included a completely new and unheard song, as well as a live debut of her collaboration with ELIO, Charger. It was more than worth the Bandsintown Plus fee. She wonderfully included videos of her fans that they submitted throughout the week as backdrops to many of her song performances. Bringing the fans in like this was really a great reminder of what she had done a year ago with how i’m feeling now.

The part of the show that left me gasping was the Q & A at the end. It began fairly standard with some but you could tell the host was not really experienced with this type of thing. She was trying to ask questions, listen to Charli and read the chats from the Bandsintown Live stream. Sadly, I think this led to the most awkward part of the evening when Charli was asked about her friend who recently, and quite suddenly passed away, SOPHIE. SOPHIE and Charli have been musical collaborators for years but to hear Charli talk of SOPHIE you know their relationship went beyond simply writing pop music.

Almost immediately upon being asked about SOPHIE Charli began to breakdown. I wasn’t taping the entire Q & A but did capture a piece of her response to the SOPHIE question.

The host, Hannah Rad, tried to bounce back from the weird position Charli was now in, and later told everyone that she and Charli talked about it off screen and everything was fine, but in that moment, you could really feel for Charli (and the host too, honestly).

Bottom Line: The performance was fun, energetic, had new songs and was not to be missed if you are a Charli fan. The Q & A was something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

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