Charli XCX, SWG3, Glasgow, Sun 27 Oct (4 stars)

Charli XCX, SWG3, Glasgow, Sun 27 Oct

credit: Michael Hunter/SWG3

Playing to a packed Galvanizers, the pop provocateur dazzles with an energetic show, laser-focused on new studio album Charli

Simultaneously embracing the conventions of pop music as well as pushing its boundaries, Charli XCX is an interesting provocation. In recent years she has supported Taylor Swift on tour while also debuting more experimental works at 18+ club shows. On the former, she embraced her biggest hits like 'Boom Clap' and 'Break the Rules', while the latter leant heavily on the music she released via unofficial 'mixtapes' with London's PC Music label. Her third official studio album, Charli, continues her work with PC Music, and the first stop of her UK tour shows her doubling down on this sound, entirely eschewing the music from her first two albums True Romance and Sucker.

The striking stage design puts Charli front and centre, and with no band or backing dancers, she easily manages to carry the whole show herself. She energetically bounds around the stage during the faster numbers and constantly engages with the audience. The setlist is structured simply into three acts, a fast-paced intro which includes her hit 'Gone' and fan favourite 'Vroom Vroom' (the first of her PC Music collaborations), followed by a batch of slower songs, with the pace picking up again for the final stretch. This approach means that the middle of the show brings energy levels down a bit and adding some faster songs amongst the slower numbers might have helped to liven it up. However, when the pace picks up again, it is relentless and includes a parade of Glasgow drag artists for new song 'Shake It' (with varying results).

Every song from Charli is included, which is perhaps not entirely necessary, but it is balanced with some choice cuts from the Pop 2 mixtape. Charli XCX has a devoted fanbase, but it is still surprising to see an audience so onboard with an artist completely jettisoning their previous hits in favour of a new sound. This does mean that the crowd is completely locked in with Charli, and she responds by keeping the energy building throughout. A brilliantly fun night that shows a fearless approach to experimentation while never shying from the universal delights of great pop music.

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