Music review: Dua Lipa – bouncing, ballads and full-bore pop bangers
SSE Hydro, Glasgow
The industrious singer’s giant arena show spans futuristic disco hits and spine-tingling torch songs, performed with winningly jazzercise-style dance routines.
Can anything stop Dua Lipa? After a patient build-up, 2017 was such a breakthrough year for the bewitching London-born singer – selling over a million copies of her self-titled debut album and cruising past some of the world’s biggest pop stars to be crowned the most-streamed female artist in the UK – that she could probably take a few months off. But Lipa has continued her vertiginous career ascent in 2018, claiming two Brit awards in February, teaming up with dancefloor genie Calvin Harris for sleek new club banger One Kiss and insouciantly cracking a billion YouTube views for New Rules, her signature hit that warns against backsliding into a lousy relationship with a stern but moreish checklist-style mantra.
While impressive on paper, racking up record-breaking streaming stats can sometimes feel like an intangible, almost passive form of success. But Lipa’s industrious workrate and gruelling tour schedule (including a stint supporting Coldplay) have clearly brought palpable real-world benefits.
When she last played Glasgow six months ago it was in a crammed 2,500-capacity venue. Now she is packing them to the rafters in a giant arena bowl made for 13,000. Her core fanbase skews young and female but while the screams are as loud and piercing as at any Bieber show, the crowd seem keen to reflect back some of Lipa’s worldly sophistication. Compared to most full-bore pop gigs at the Hydro, there is a distinct lack of strobing deely boppers.
On magazine covers and in impeccably styled promo shots, Lipa often looks aloof or simply nonplussed. But the 22-year-old kicks off by imploring fans to “be your most unapologetic you” and “dance the night away”, and promptly leads by example through Blow Your Mind (Mwah), a slice of futuristic disco that slyly incorporates an actual kiss-off into its chorus. For sustained stretches of her 90-minute show, Lipa is in perpetual motion, bouncing and reeling round the stage in billowing black joggers, springy trainers and aquamarine bra. She is flanked by four equally tireless dancers while her long-serving backing trio of a drummer and two multitasking keyboard/guitarists jam away atop oversized stage cubes.
A massive projection screen showing artfully stylised visuals and pulsing hyperspace starfields is arena-show standard but otherwise there is a distinct lack of large-scale staging gimmicks. It makes it all the more impressive that Lipa is able to sustain so many winningly jazzercise-style dance routines without missing a note.
There are moments of delirious communion, as when Lipa hoists herself up on the front-row stage barrier to conduct a singalong to the yearning Be the One. But there are also moments of spine-tingling spotlight: the stripped-down obsessional ballad Thinking ’Bout You, with just her and guitar, showcases her voice at its smokiest. Strip away the headstrong beats and synthy stabs of her biggest hits and Lipa would remain a potent, intuitive torch singer.
The biggest laugh of the night comes toward the end when a title card pops up dedicating IDGAF to “all the fuckboys who have done you wrong”. While this playground-chant anthem to empowerment doesn’t yet match the climactic New Rules in terms of streams and views, it is – perhaps tellingly – the song fans are raucously singing a capella as they spill out of the venue.