Christina Aguilera sets the O2 Arena alight with an incendiary stage show￼
“London, it has been a long time coming,” Christina Aguilera
Words by Dany Jones / Photography by Naomi Dryden-Smith
With a worthy opening by X Factor finalist’s sultry male vocal quartet Union J, these have done a great job at warming up the audience.
The boys couldn’t have been more thrilled to be joining such a worldwide icon for her string of UK dates, especially on the back of a sold-out reunion show at the London Palladium back in May of this year.
They present us with a mix of their own, including ‘Carry You‘, ‘Beautiful Life’, ‘Tonight ‘and ‘You Got It All’, and some stripped-down covers and adapted medleys from Beyonce’ to Demi Lovato; and they certainly bring it home.
Long gone are the days of the Mickey Mouse club, which takes credit for a string of future talent including the likes of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling and, of course, Christina Aguilera.
Catapulted to mega-stardom with the Pop hit Genie in a Bottle, it did not take long to appreciate the true talent of this songstress who is known to easily hit the four-octave range, and who has earned the title of true powerhouse queen diva, equalling her to greats of the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Huston.
Aguilera has been missing from UK shores for quite some time and she is visibly thrilled to be back. ‘I always love coming to this city. London, I love you!’ she shares.
A bombastic entrance sees a high-octane version of ‘Dirrty ‘ with giant visuals, pyrotechnics, a live band and a full cast of dancers who make the performance truly explosive. By textbook, the star is last to arrive. She is wearing a flame-laden PVC body suit and truly sends the crowd into a frenzy when marking the words ‘are you ready to get dirty?
The set sees the inevitable hits including ‘What a girl wants’, ‘Can’t hold us down’, ‘Vanity’ and ‘Fighter’, where a celebration of women in all of their multifaceted beautiful complexity is well and truly underway. Aguilera is renowned for her openness about socio-political issues and has always been championing her ‘ladies’ and LGBTQ rights.
The songs have been given a new lease of life by adding contemporary arrangements drawing from Hip Hop, Rap, Reggaeton, Latin, Dance and even Rock. There are plenty of interludes, breakdowns, solos by the backing singers and dance routines by the troupe, skilfully filling in during the singer’s costume changes. This is not simply a concert, this is a full-scale production mega show.
Now 41 and truly at the peak of a 20-year-long prosperous career, with 6 Grammy awards and three decades of topping the Billboard charts under her belt, the multiplatinum artist has absolutely nothing more to prove. Today she is here with her children, in a perfect place and simply loving what she does.
In an intimate moment, the singer thanks the audience for supporting her during her 20-year-long journey, and follows with how she had to fight to stand her ground several times “Thank you so much for sharing all the beautiful things with me. In this business, people tried to tell me to change who I was, be something else, change my last name. But I said no, this is who I am, this is me”.
With an Ecuadorian father, Aguilera relates to her Latin roots and how she has wanted to sing in Spanish again and relay that back to her children as a legacy. Her latest album, the self-titled ‘Aguilera’, was released on the 31st of May of this year and is all sung in Spanish.
A whole mid-section of the show is dedicated to several extracts of the album, including the songs ‘Ya llegue,’ ‘Santo, Sueltame’, ‘Como Yo, Pa mis muchachas’, and portraying a very dark haired Latin looking Christina on the videos utilised as a backdrop.
But it is time to get back to the more mainstream route. Christina Aguilera has always been a master at re-adapting covers and making them truly her own. A true testament to that is the re-edition of Patty LaBelle’s Lady Marmalade which obtained incredibly acclaimed success and topped the charts for weeks on end.
Tonight, we are also treated to a very special groove-charged Disco version of Maroon 5’s ‘Moves like Jagger’, which sees the entire arena stand up from their chairs and explode into one massive dance party.
Despite the majestic production and elaborate stage show, favourite moments remain the stripped-down ballads, where Aguilera’s intense emotion, her incredibly round tone and impressive vocal acrobatics can truly shine.
‘On Beautiful’, Christina asks the audience to join in on the second half in a solemn chant in unison, while for ‘Say Something ‘we see an overwhelmed very special guest, British singer Olly Alexander, join her on stage. Olly is visibly in awe, while Christina gracefully cues for him to start the song. At this stage, claiming chills down the spine is an understatement.
Photo credit’s Naomi Dryden- Smith
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From ultimate Pop icon to powerhouse diva and anything in between, Christina Aguilera well and truly earns the title of ultimate royalty and tonight marks the very testament of that during an intensely exhilarating 80 mins set.
Dubbed as ‘the voice of a generation, at the closing line ‘Who owns the throne?’ from her controversial song Vanity, there can only be a resounding ‘you, my queen’
Can’t Hold Us Down
Genie in a Bottle
What a Girl Wants
Pa’ mis muchachas
Feel This Moment (Pitbull cover)
Ain’t No Other Man
Moves Like Jagger (Maroon 5 cover)
Say Something (A Great Big World cover) (with Olly Alexander)
Show Me How You Burlesque (Sung by the band)
Lady Marmalade (Patty LaBelle cover)
Let There Be Love