On Twitter, Charli XCX touts herself as “Girl Power, Round 2.” Mix Sleigh Bells with some Siouxsie Sioux, add a dash of Heart and put it in the blender with a electronic drum kit and a copy of “The Craft”–there’s the Charli XCX smoothie. It remains to be seen if this rambunctious brunette is indeed the second (but edgier!) coming of Sporty Spice, but she is certainly dressing the part. At the Troubadour this past Friday, she took the stage in neon Sporty regalia, her hair in a Scary Spice teased-tangle. “It’s girl power tonight,” she confirmed, and with the help of two twiggy lads on keys and electronic drums, proceeded to give a performance with all the ferocity of Posh’s pout.
Her set was a bit on the short side; likely due to her touring in support of an EP. What the show lacked in length was made up for in peculiar eye candy – from Charli’s Ibiza style thrash-dancing to the instruments decked out with roses and cascades of VHS tape-guts. The mixed and initially sleepy crowd woke up completely for “How Can I?” from her Heartbreaks and Earthquakes mixtape. For who can resist shouting along to “How can I face what I fucked up?”
After that, the audience was mostly hers to command, and she took full advantage. Following an Echo and the Bunnymen cover, she informed the room, “This song is kinda like a bump and grind song, R. Kelly style. So you guys gotta do that.” The direction was a bit difficult to pursue as she and her band launched into “The End of the World,” a mid-tempo rave-y number of Alex Metric’s that she guested on late last year.
Ms. Charli kicked the femme factor up a notch when she invited Sky Ferriera onstage for a performance of “Grins,” which has likely gone viral by now. Admittedly unrehearsed, the duet was charming if a bit slapdash, and brought Charli’s boundless energy into full focus. Dolled up like an Empire Records era alternative dream girl, Sky planted her feet, closed her eyes and sang, while Charli danced like her life depended on it.
After bidding adieu to Sky, she announced “I’m gonna dance like you’ve never seen anyone dance before.” Though the dance was much the same as the rest of the evening, its accompaniment–her single “You’re the One”–was the highlight of the night. A fabulous blend of spacious ’80s sounds and a dark contemporary hook, this piece showed off the best of Charli’s gutsy alto, with cooing, creepy bits that gave it that extra XCX splash of kink.
Although track-heavy electropop is perhaps better introduced via recording, Charli was a sight worth seeing. If this show was any indication, the world better get ready: raw girl power is fixin’ to fight for the pop throne.