The atmosphere in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall was far from ordinary as Chris, the visionary behind Christine and the Queens, proclaimed, “As you’ve suspected now, this is not your regular gig!” The audience had embarked on a one-of-a-kind musical journey, immersed in the odyssey that is “Paranoïa, Angels, True Love.” The evening was a testament to Chris’s audacious and evolving artistic vision.
Symphony Hall, typically reserved for classical performances, served as an unexpected canvas for Chris’s creativity, transforming into a realm where reality blurred into a captivating dream. Known for a string of electrifying festival appearances and artistic curations, Chris had clearly transcended conventional boundaries. The venue’s opulent elegance was complemented by the moody, cinematic trip-hop soundscape, signalling a departure from the disco-pop infused past.
The atmosphere was charged with anticipation, knowing that tonight’s performance would be a magnificent exploration of religious symbolism, existential solitude, and boundless emotions. The stage was adorned with statues, each symbolizing different facets of human emotion, including angels, a lion and a staricase, all playing pivotal roles in the visual narrative. As the performance unfolded, a perpetual haze of smoke enveloped the stage, enhancing the ominous yet entrancing atmosphere.
The show began with “Overture,” an ethereal soundscape that marked the celestial descent of Chris himself. Suspended from the heavens by a ladder, he graced the stage with an otherworldly presence. It was a powerful opening that set the tone for the evening. Chris, a chameleon of personas over four studio albums, graced the stage with a powerful aura. Wearing just a vest over a tiny bralet, and black slacks, he radiated strength and sensuality. The vest soon came off as Chris embraced his authenticity by going shirtless for most of the show, although he didn’t refrain himself from wearing a red, long skirt to further captivate us in his storytelling, as well as black wings and an arm armour.
Chris’s personal journey, marked by the profound loss of his mother in 2019, was woven into the performance. Themes of death and mourning resonated through Madonna’s haunting vocals and Chris’s raw, guttural cries, which seamlessly transformed into moments of joy reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s dance moves, blending elements of statuary, flamenco, and vogueing.
The whole show was an intentional, but chaotic, piece of theatre, a ritual to confront grief and transcend the boundaries of time and space. The show was split into three big themes, as the album name suggests: Paranoïa, Angels and True Love, all combined together by an ethereal narrative voice. It was a deep dive into a fever dream where themes of existential loneliness and love complexities were explored, often invoking otherworldly beings. The emotional rollercoaster climaxed with the 11-minute epic, ‘Track 10,’ inspired by Tony Kushner’s “Angels In America,” delving into the AIDS crisis of the 80s.
Although this was definitely a one-man show, Chris was also supported by a guitarist, a drummer and a keyboardist to make his story complete. Chris’s connection with the audience was palpable. As he was dressed in a tailcoat with black wings, he also ventured into the crowd, singing right from the middle of the seats. The audience’s love and support enveloped him, solidifying the notion that even in the darkest moments, he would forever reside in their hearts.
Christine and the Queens’ performance at Symphony Hall was indeed more than just a concert; it was a chaotic and transformative artistic experience. Chris’s ability to push the boundaries of music and storytelling, paired with a deep emotional resonance, left a mark on the audience. The venue may not have been conventional, but neither is Chris’s raw artistry, and that’s precisely what made the night a remarkable and unforgettable one. Chris’s transcendent vocals and physicality, coupled with a complex narrative of grief, love, and longing, made for a night to remember.
Christine and the Queens Setlist
- Tears Can Be So Soft
- Marvin descending
- A day in the water
- Full of life
- Angels crying in my bed
- Track 10
- He’s been shining for ever, your son
- Flowery days
- I met an angel
- True Love
- Let me touch you once
- Aimer, puis vivre
- We have to be friends
- Lick the Light Out
- To be honest
- I feel like an angel
- Big eye
Review and photographs: Andra Tudoran