I’ve arrived in Heaven early. I’m not dead, it’s just that the venue of that name likes to get its acts on in good time so that punters can be turfed out ahead of a club night afterwards.
The place is already pretty full and the crowd is boisterous and enthusiastic. They are enjoying a set by CuckooLander, a four piece pop rock outfit that serves as the live vehicle for Holly Hardy. There’s lots to admire.
Hardy and her boys play a slinky type of guitar pop with catchy choruses and a surprising amount of grit for an act at the more obviously radio-friendly end of the spectrum.
Holly clutches her guitar and undulates in a black leather sheath skirt. I’ve not heard her music before but singles ‘Dumb Dee Diddy Dumb’ and ‘What’s Out There?’ make an instant impression. One to watch for the future.
It’s not entirely a surprise to find CuckooLander on tonight’s bill. Holly Hardy is the ex-drummer from headliner Charli XCX’s live band. They’ve both moved up the pop ladder.
Tonight is Charli XCX’s triumphant homecoming. Her songs have graced radios and stadiums across the world, but she’s often only been acknowledged as an associate, an ‘also featuring’ credit on the hits that she’s written for others. Tonight is her opportunity to take centre stage.
And how! Right from the start Charli walks on and just bosses it. She’s rocking a cheerleader outfit with ‘Sucker’ written across it. Her band are similarly attired. This is the title of the forthcoming album and the first song tonight.
It’s a banging hit right out of the gate. Within seconds everyone’s arms are aloft, giving the middle digit and chanting ‘Fuck You, Sucker!’ It’s great sweary fun and from here on we are putty in her hands.
Charli primps her vast mane of black hair, adjusts her tiny tiara and swaggers through her set with bratty brilliance and uber confidence. She doesn’t deal in wistful lovelorn ballads, these are all in-your-face declarations of strength and positivity.
The hits keep coming. Third song in is a riotous version of ‘I Don’t Care’, the global smash that she wrote for Icona Pop. The audience is so uplifted that they are practically levitating.
Despite the new album being a couple of months away, this already feels like a ‘Best Of…’ tour. There’s virtually no flab in this set at all – ‘Stay Away’, ‘London Queen’, ‘You (Ha Ha Ha)’ are all stripped-to-the-bone live monsters.
Charli has always had a good ear and this is shown tonight by her only true cover version, a ramped up tear through The Flying Lizards’ take of The Beatles’ version of the Barrett Strong track ‘Money (That’s What I Want).’ It’s all so meta that your head spins.
Just before the end of the evening a net is released and we are bombarded by the heaviest deluge of balloons I’ve ever experienced at a gig. It’s balloonageddon! The venue resembles an enormous pink and white gumball machine as Charli signs off with ‘Boom Clap’, yet another massive worldwide hit.
It’s been a fantastic evening. Charli XCX has arrived!