The world has finally started to catch up with Charli XCX.
A few years ago at Reading she was hidden away on the Dance Stage, but still attacked it like she was headlining her own show. Despite ‘Boys’ riding high, her off-kilter pop felt like a secret. And sure, our Chaz has always bounced between Radio Hits and Underground Rave but since ‘Pop 2’, she’s found a confidence in doing both. It’s been the lead-up to her new, sorta-self-titled, album that’s seen her really embrace it all though.
Hand in hand with that, people have finally ‘got’ what sort of artist Charli wants to be. And that’s one that changes on a whim, depending on who she’s partying with, how she feels or what feels exciting. It’s unpredictable and chases a heartfelt adventure. You could say she’s found a peace but this afternoon’s set on The Main Stage of Reading feels dangerous, dynamic and vital. It’s also got an arms-wide-open warmth. Absolutely anything could happen.
Her set skips between songs of heartbreak and party anthems that offer a soundtrack to escape. There’s sugary sweet pop that would have seen her bottled a decade ago, and future-facing bangers that will dictate the shape of things to come. The opening mash of ‘Track Ten’ and ‘Blame It On Your Love’ is surprisingly delicate, showing a bruised heart behind the all-out pop excess before ‘I Love It’ and ‘Fancy’ show just how well Charli can relate en masse. The likes of ‘Gone’ and super new song ‘Cross You Out’ continue to expose and dive deeper, as ‘1999’, ‘Girls Night Out’ and ‘Focus’ remind everyone that Charli’s eternal love is the party.
Her drift between cult and celebrity isn’t indecision, it’s simply a case of wanting it all.
Yes, today’s set isn’t the most festival friendly, but it’s extreme in its vulnerability, honesty and sense of reckless abandon. It’s impossible to second-guess but it ever deliberately obtuse. Her drift between cult and celebrity isn’t indecision, it’s simply a case of wanting it all. Charli may be most at home playing dark clubs to her diehard fans, but today proves she could take on the world, if only she wanted it.
With ‘Charli’ on the horizon, what comes next is anyone’s guess. Catch her if you can.
Words: Ali Shutler