Christine and the Queens

Christine and the Queens


Time passes slowly when waiting in a queue for drinks at the Apollo’s Circle Bar with your favourite musical discovery of the year due to be on stage in five minutes. I’m starting to wonder whether everyone in line ahead of me is ordering extravagant cocktails. As I’m about to abort mission, suddenly I’m served and I dash back to my seat to witness Christine and the Queens in full flow, singing and dancing to the mostly electronic sounds in the vast spaces on stage.

A show with a huge video screen sat behind a stage with dancers and no drum kit is not my usual kind of gig, but tonight feels like a real Friday-night treat. I’m fortunate that I bought tickets in the pre-sale because all tickets for this short UK tour seemed to sell out no sooner had they gone on sale. It seems I’m not the only one to find much appeal in a singer with mesmerising diction, a remarkable debut album (Chaleur Humaine) that she wrote and produced, Jacko-esque dance moves and, like Ezra Furman and Perfume Genius, an inspiring message about confidence and self-expression to those who feel they don’t fit into a society that wants to place everyone in restrictive and divisive categories.

Héloïse Letissier’s musical project is so-named to give the impression of being a band, but the Queens are with her in spirit only. Three drag queens she met in the UK had a huge impact on her outlook and propelled her into getting her life out of a bit of a rut and into making music. In front of the two synth/keys players and a guitarist, tonight’s spacious stage features what seem to be fluorescent-pink position markers to help the dancers keep their bearings. The central marker for Christine, instead of being x-shaped like the others, takes the form of ‘iT’, the title of a triumphant song early in the set that addresses ideas of gender and uses synthesised Caribbean steel drums in the chorus.

As well as the dancers and video, the performance of some songs is enhanced by neon tubes that float around above in an all-round visual delight. As one would expect from the limited music-making machinery and instruments on stage, the arrangements don’t stray too far from the recorded versions, yet the vocals are glorious, especially considering all the energetic body movements. The patter between songs from Christine is just a joy to behold: full of humour and warmth and song introductions that not only never outstay their welcome but I actually start to look forward to whatever it is she is going to tell us next.

A year or two from now all of us will be different people in certain ways owing to our experiences between now and then, but it occurs to me how great it would be if Christine could stay exactly as she is right now. Who knows what she’ll go on to do from here (she promises she’ll be back in Manchester with a new album that will be “funky and sexy and creepy”) or what effect all the acclaim and success might have, but tonight has felt like one long and perfect moment. Gig of the year for me.

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Steve Jones

Apart from about five years in total, I've always lived in Manchester. Shame about the weather and lack of beach, but I do like it here. My all-time favourite gig would have to be The National at the Academy in about 2010, although I did get Matt Berninger's mic cable wrapped around my neck (that was a close one). My guilty pleasures include the music of Bruce Springsteen, and I also felt a bit bad for feeling such joy at seeing Counting Crows live in the early 2000s. I recommend Lifter Puller, a rather obnoxious and unpleasant-sounding band that I can't seem to get enough of, even though they are long disbanded. Amongst my Silent Radio gigs, I was blown away by John Murry. I'll let you know if anything tops that one.