- Pics & Vids
- 11 Sep 23
Man, by ritual’s end there is so much occurring on the flower strewn stage. Romano-Greco sculptures, their tousled heads and loose togas, illuminated by multi-colored disco lasers, a statue of archangel Michael and a delirious Olympia audience gaze at Christine and the Queens’ ringmaster Red writhing on the ground while his masked band, excellent throughout, rock out the final bars of mammoth show closer ‘Big Eye’.
I say ritual because that’s what Red proclaims it. And nobody is disagreeing. Pushing beyond mere gig, this is no ordinary performance. We’ve had it all – Jean Genet staging, Madonna as omnipresent AI Big Brother, the channeling of Marvin Gaye, stone lions straddled, angel wings donned and many skins and many attires shed.
Red is the current handle of Christine and the Queens. In a recent Vulture interview, he succinctly explained his various names - “My many names are just an expression of my multitude, which we all have. My life outside my work is the performance. The exhausting performance. I jump in a cab in France, and they call me by my birth name and it’s triggering. I am trying to become more myself. And “myself” is Redcar plus Chris plus Christine and the Queens. Christine and the Queens is actually the mechanism of my imagination, saving me. Finding a Shakespearean way to tell the truth, like in Angels in America. I’ve always been flourishing with many names. My reality now is all of those names in one.”
Tonight’s show is a performance of Red’s latest album PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE - written, performed and produced by Christine and the Queens, with co-production by Mike Dean (Lana Del Rey, Beyonce) and guest appearances from 070 Shake and Madonna. The record is the second part of an operatic gesture that also encompassed 2022’S Redcar les adorables étoiles. Taking inspiration from Tony Kushner’s iconic play, Angels in America. Red describes it as “a key towards heart-opening transformation, a prayer towards the self - the one that breathes through all the loves it is made of. Prior’s agony in Angels in America is a deep, painful becoming, a shedding of all waters and memories, that then allows angels to immerse deep too, and offer back profound, narrative-altering love - a rest in true love.”
Angels in America catalogued the travails of Prior Walter, a young man dying with Aids in late-eighties New York, receiving visitations by angels in prophetic dreams. Tonight, in the Olympia is a mammoth rock opera version of PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE. It’s dramatic. It’s cathartic. It’s transcendent.
Red’s movement is sublime, his clobber dynamic. Bare chested under red and black sequined waistcoat with black slacks and split toe leather shoes, sparkling skin and just the one leather glove, shoulder length brown hair, slicked back. Reminiscent at times to Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu, to Fred Astaire’s ballroom ballet, to Michael Jackson’s locking jazz, to Iggy Pop’s audacious punk, Red’s muscular body is a work of art itself as he hunts the stage for definition and meaning.
The album is delivered in three acts – Paranoia, Angels and True Love. In the first act, he serenades a rapt audience on ‘A Day in the Water’, collaborating with Johann Pachelbel, the seventeenth century German composer, waistcoat discarded, bare chested straddling a statue of a noble lion. The vocal is awesome on ‘Angels Crying in my Bed’ – “I want golden feathers/If they spring from my back/Oh, Lord, I want them golden”. ‘Track 10’ is simply epic, Red thrashing flowers against his chest, chucking chairs, completely letting go, straining every sinew. You almost forget how great the vocal is and how terrific his band are, feverishly matching him, such is the theatrical power in the performance.
Red reappears in billowing high waisted red skirt and one arm of armour – think a Vivien Leigh Gone with the Wind/Klaus Kinski Aguirre, the Wrath of God hybrid and you’re in the ball park. ‘Flowery Days’ is jolly relief, with its sitcom comfortable piano riff. Red tells us - “this is not a regular gig, this is blood sweat and tears, it is a ritual.” He ain’t lying.
On ‘I Met An Angel’, Madonna’s disassociated vocal booms out, Archangel Michael is looking after us, the ritual has just one condition – open hearts. Red roams the stage singing to the heavens moving hare like, witch like, a whirling dervish, lifting his skirts and attacking shadows with scorpion poses. ‘True Love’ and ‘Let Me Touch You Once’, a pair of co-writes with American rapper 070 Shake are feverish and brilliant, Red on bended knee, singing about flexing abs and hot sex – it’s that kind of night. Red switches into French, the crowd are delirious, staring at the Brechtian opera unfolding.
The band don masks. Red disappears into a blazer and a pair of black angel wings. Think Kevin Smith’s Dogma. Red ecstatically booming out ‘Shine’ and now and only now talks Dublin and Dublin audiences, his voice drowned out by the baying crowd. He sheds his wings for synth popper ‘Big Eye’, mic stand sent flying. “Long live Imagination!” he yells, fist in the air and is gone.
Wow. We’ve witnessed something here. Not entirely fathomable but absolutely enthralling.