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Charli XCX at Concorde 2, Brighton (published in Metro, Mar 2015)


Concorde 2, Brighton


Charli XCX's walk-on music, or rather, romp-on music, is Plastic Bertrand's cartoon-punk classic “Ca Plane Pour Moi”, which roughly translates as “It's all working out for me”. And it certainly is.

Even a year ago, few would have foreseen the rise of Charli XCX. A lot of money has been thrown at Charlotte Aitchison, firstly by her parents, who funded the recording of her (unreleased) debut album 14 while she was still a pupil at top private school Bishop's Stortford College, then by Warners.

But for the first seven years of her eight-year career, she never looked like becoming more than a Hoxton hipster in-joke. Then “Boom Clap” happened, the breakout single which stormed the Top 10 in the US first and UK second.

A cynic might argue that she's achieved it by switching from a Poundland Peaches to a K-Mart Ke$ha; a believer that she's a testament to persistence and hard work. And boy, she works hard. The opening night of her first UK tour begins with the zebra-clad XCX marching, punching, high-kicking and twerking through the sweary middle-finger salute of “Sucker”, and the energy seldom lets up.

This is Snapchat pop: gone in ten seconds, but there's another one along straight away. Like revenge fantasy “I Don't Care”, or “I Love It” (the Icona Pop hit she co-wrote). There are countless precedents for XCX's attitude-heavy trashpop (Transvision Vamp, Shampoo, Republica, Gwen Stefani), but her young, overwhelmingly female audience don't know or, indeed, care.

When she's good - “Doing It”, “You (Ha Ha Ha)” - she's very good, but when she's bad she's dreadful. Naffest of all is “Break The Rules”, the one with the Britney-esque video shot at Rydell High, in which XCX squeals “I don't wanna go to school!” Like Toyah Willcox before her, she really needn't worry: she's 22.

Her punk credentials are a proclaimed with a cover of “Allergic To Love” by obscure Swedes Snuffed By The Yakuza (her producer Patrik Berger's old band). For “Gold Coins” she wields a giant inflatable guitar, mock-rocking out with her all-female band, clad in sequinned capes and feather angel wings, 15 at the merch stand along with all manner of Barbie-esque tat (the XCX camp didn't get the Pink Stinks memo about gender stereotyping).

By the time she encores with “Boom Clap”, it's like those years of public indifference never happened. Whether you consider her the future of pop or an A-grade irritant, it looks like it's finally all working out for Charli XCX.

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