Christina Aguilera is acutely attuned to her core fan base. Lady Gaga’s 2002 hit single “Dirrty” was announced to the crowd before she even took to the stage at London’s O2 Arena.
The words “ladies and gentlemen” were displayed on massive screens before she even took the stage. The crowd was so raucous that the term “rowdy” barely covers it.
The 41-year-old ripped through some major bangers in the first six songs. “Dirrty” and “Can’t Hold Us Down,” both from her 2002 album Stripped, were reworked into a grunge-inspired interpretation.
When Aguilera stepped off stage, she returned to the stage in a leotard covered in sequins and a blaze of flames.
This was the moment when the show’s momentum was cemented. There are only two tracks on Aguilera’s 20-track compilation that aren’t taken directly from her 2010 album Bionic, including the album’s glitchy title tune.
Accompanied by green light poles and green lasers, the song was an exhilarating piece of camp dance music, with Aguilera bouncing off her muscular male dancers like she was walking the catwalk on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Genie in a Bottle” was transformed into something sultry by a reggaeton remix of the club-ready staging with blue and purple lasers.
As she sang, Christina Aguilera was clearly enjoying herself despite the song being nearly two decades old.
The diva magnanimity she’s collected over the previous two decades hasn’t completely gone away.
Onstage, with her sunglasses perched on top of her head, her trademark vocal growl transformed this innocent track into something lot more assured than it had been in the original studio version.
For “What a Girl Wants,” she slowed things down a touch, transforming the bubbling bubble-gum original into a quieter, more contemplative moment.
“I just want to thank you so much for being on this trip for the past couple of decades!” she sobbed as she addressed the crowd for the first time.
Aguilera, her most recent Spanish-language album, accounted for the middle third of her show, which featured songs from the album.
Despite the fact that most of the audience at the O2 was unfamiliar with these Latin-inspired songs, Aguilera clearly had a personal connection to them.
In “Suéltame,” the singer’s customary vocal gymnastics were reined in, making it a particularly brilliant moment.
An orchestral and big band-filled arena was indicated by the presence of banking singers, who are now largely legacy acts.
Sadly, our show was unable to afford such support. Aguilera’s set was simple, focusing on a few dancers, singers, and a light sprinkling of fire. Her voice was enormous.
It’s rare to see an O2 event without some sort of extravaganza, but Aguilera was able to pull it off because of the richness of her song collection.
In “Ain’t No Other Man,” she effortlessly glided into the soaring vocal passages that would demolish her peers’ careers.
With her charisma and stage presence, Aguilera is perfectly equipped to perform in a pop concert. When she took a step back from the glitz and glamour, things really took off. For the heartfelt song “Say Something,” she enlisted Years and Years frontman, Olly Alexander.
There were tears in Alexander’s eyes, and Aguilera’s chest-tightening vocals almost brought them to the verge of bursting.
Complaints revolved around the volume of Aguilera’s voice, the size of her drum set, and an overzealous background track that muddied everything into an incoherent mess.
As soon as Christina Aguilera began to sing “Beautiful,” the clamor subsided, and the turmoil dissipated like fog on a windy day. When you realized you were watching a true pop music legend having the time of her life, you knew you were in for a treat.
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