Dorian Electra is a musical genius. For nearly a decade, the American artist has made socially conscious, tongue-in-cheek compositions across three albums. Their 2019 debut record, ‘Flamboyant,’ saw them deconstruct masculinity and the many social expectations that it presents via catchy choruses and clever lyricism. Since then, they’ve released 2020’s ‘My Agenda,’ a deep dive into ‘edgy’ internet culture jam-packed with colourful collaborations and the triumph that is last year’s offering, ‘Fanfare.’ This album – I would argue to be their best thus far – comprises 13 epic and theatrical celebrations of sexuality, diversity and freedom to be oneself, with musical influences as characteristically eclectic as classical, techno and hard metal music exhibited throughout.

As is very much the case in ‘Fanfare,’ an air of liberation was palpable in the large, demographic-straddling sea of (mostly queer) people gathered before the ornate, exaggeratedly militaristic stage design that has accompanied Electra to North America, South America and, now, Europe, as part of their world tour of the record. Some attendees were clearly long-time followers of the artist, evincible in their drawn-on moustaches (a ‘Flamboyant’-era look of Dorian’s) and sailor hats (as worn in the music video for the song, ‘My Agenda’) and these fans ranged from veterans of the rave scene to the chronically online Zoomers empathetically referred to in ‘Fanfare’ track, ‘Touch Grass.’

Judging by what you’ve read so far, you can imagine that the entrance of this iconic queer musician was typically, wonderfully dramatic: with anticipation bolstered by the sounding of a Baroquian organ piece, when the red spotlight boring into the stage abruptly disappeared, the orchestral hits of ‘Fanfare’ opener ‘Symphony’ blasted from the speakers and out of the black appeared a yellow-haired Dorian Electra.

Commanding the audience with their poise and statuesque poses, Electra struck the perfect balance between controlling the room and sending it into a state of excitable chaos; the song’s explosive chorus garnering chants of ‘NA-NA-NA-NA-NA’ that were duly offered to their outstretched microphone. Indisputably the best tune with which to start the set, ‘Symphony,’ as well as making clear to the audience that we were in for over an hour of reckless abandon, also established a feeling that this wasn’t going to be a standard fare concert – this was to be a ‘FANFARE’ concert.

Electra maintained the energy high skyrocketed by the opening track in following it with ‘Idolize,’ the album’s second song as well as one of its singles. As the video for this Gaga-esque bop came with its own Gaga-esque choreography, so was it immaculately performed on stage by Dorian and their two backing dancers (whose movements radiated with enthusiasm and, pivotally, enjoyment throughout the show). Then came the first ‘Flamboyant’ track of the night – the title track, no less – and the pairing of its verses, whose heavy bass and sensual singing feel extracted straight from a dingy nightclub, and its raucous, dazzling chorus, somehow raised the energy even more.

The extent to the ‘Fanfare’ tour’s theatricality was first alluded to in Electra’s performance of another album single, ‘Puppet,’ in which a towering, puppet-like entity entered the stage and ‘controlled’ the singer’s movements as they danced as if pulled by strings. A particularly creative and effective performance, this is certainly an example of what I mean when I refer to this show as anything but conventional – something that could be said of Dorian themselves. However, the eccentricity demonstrated here was taken further during ‘Yes Man.’

One of my favourite songs from ‘Fanfare,’ ‘Yes Man’ takes the perspective of a person who has lost all loyalty and friends in surrounding themselves with ‘yes men,’ their feelings of isolation and paranoia conveyed in the line ‘nobody tried to understand me/they’re just standing in my way.’ The track progresses from brooding brass to a techno and drum ‘n’ bass instrumental break which descends into heavy metal – yes, this is a must-hear song – all of which precede Electra’s proclamation of ‘cut the f*#&ing fanfare.’ It is at this point that the singer, surrounded by their weapon-wielding dancers and a figure looming over them, is executed; their head raised high for all the audience to see.

Of course, this was a stunt designed to buy time for Electra and their dancers to change costumes – their mannequin head was paraded about the stage to mournful operatic music by a mask-wearing mime, who threw some strands of the ‘late’ artist’s hair into the crowd. Still, the experience was surreal, even for Dorian’s standards, and threw me completely off guard. Safe to say that, with the subsequent second interlude and outfit change that occurred later in the show, we were kept on our toes in more than just the literal sense!

The next three songs to follow the spectacle rivalled each other in their sheer intensity: ‘anon,’ whose music video saw Dorian wearing the sunglasses-and-skimpy-suit look that they’d just changed into, the slap bass-led ‘Phonies’ and ‘Ram It Down,’ a ‘My Agenda’ cut. Across these tracks, elements of DnB, rock and dubstep are incorporated, eliciting a quite frankly rabid response from the audience and allowing Electra to truly let loose. The setlist’s descent into further madness, in the playing of tracks ‘M’Lady’ (which veered from the original recording to the electrifying Kero Kero Bonito and S3RL remix) and ‘Touch Grass,’ cemented this part of the concert as my overall highlight.

From this point until the set’s final songs, Electra’s rapport with the crowd reached its peak, as they remarked upon the historic New Century Hall and the classic acts who have performed there in the past, before cheekily adding, ‘but none of them played what I’m about to play to you!’ They also acknowledged Manchester’s musical heritage by praising the audience and how ‘[we] love MUSIC!’ At the end of the show, they began to profusely thank the audience for being there and supporting an independent artist, expressing their honest shock at how much larger the crowd was compared to their last performance in Manchester.

Dorian chose arguably the two best singles from ‘Fanfare’ with which to send us off in the encore. Returning to the stage with the raunchiest song they’ve ever written, ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ precipitated an explosion of euphoria in the audience; it is a hit in the truest sense of the word, if everyone screaming its opening line, ‘tell me that ancient story/two cities got super horny’ is anything to go by. The last track of the evening, ‘Freak Mode’ – the first single to be released from ‘Fanfare’ – set the room alight. Its simple yet riotous chorus and accompanying choreo rallied the crowd to jump, headbang and just go generally apeshit. What better way for Dorian to depart, moreover, than to crowdsurf in the song’s final moments? I can imagine that, in that moment, while being carried by adoring fans and riding the wave of their comfortable expression of themselves to the soundtrack of Electra’s music, the artist must have felt on top of the world. (By my definition, I would say that ‘on top of the world’ basically means ‘surrounded by supporters in Manchester’s New Century Hall’ – so they really were!)

Following a hilarious monologue about coffee grounds and how they should be disposed of in compost, Dorian Electra yells on ‘Fanfare’ song ‘Lifetime,’ ‘tonight…is gonna be the best night of our lives!’ For many of us witnessing their performance, it most certainly felt like it.