If there’s one artiste worthy to be Madonna’s direct successor as Queen of Pop, it has to be Christina Aguilera.
No other female artiste in the music scene today can stage a performance the way this astounding vocalist does, and her stupendous Back To Basics Tour is solid, visual, and ringing proof to that.
The show was absolutely mind-blowing. The moment you heard the 26-year-old diva belt out that explosive, commanding first note of “Ain’t No Other Man” in the opening act, you knew, for sure, the future Queen of Pop has arrived, and she’s here to claim her well-deserved throne.
Performing in Singapore for the first time in a 1-night-only spectacular on Jun 30 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Aguilera delivered yet another outstandingly designed concert after her explosive Stripped Tour back in 2003.
From the big band style and playful elements of “Candyman” to heavy emotional pieces like “Hurt, this 90-min spectacle brought audiences through a fabulous journey, from a 40’s strip club, an old school jukebox joint, a jazz place and even to church – places we’ve all been taken to by the album – all on 1 stage in a single sensational show.
Much of the concert was inspired by the old school, throwback theme that defines Aguilera’s staggering double-disc album, Back To Basics. And tracks like “Slow Down Baby”, “Understand”, Back In The Day” and “Makes Me Wanna Pray”, which emulate the 30’s jazz and blues era, bring to life the retro concept of the show perfectly.
Almost every other song performed was done based on this theme. Even old faves like “What A Girl Wants” was given a reggae touch, “Come On Over Baby” was remade with a jazz sound, and “Dirrty” was done big band style with Christina on a carnival carousel horse, and using it as stripper pole.
Ambitious as the remixes were to tackle, with Aguilera’s exceptional executive producing talent (as witnessed in her latest album), they came through brilliantly “live”, with the essence of their original flavours intact, and were superbly entertaining.
Even the circus theme in disc 2 of the album was transformed into reality in the second half of the concert, with a zoo of trapeze swingers, stilt walkers, fire throwers, and can-can girls walking their lion mates, as the circus master invited us to “come and play”, as in the track, “Enter The Circus”.
This was evidently the turning point of the concert where the heat was turned up with massive numbers like “Beautiful”, “Lady Marmalade”, which she handled single-handedly, “Candyman”, “Hurt” and, capping it all, the fierce and powerful “Fighter”.
Alas, what was supposed to be the highlight of the world tour, however, fans in Asian countries, including Singapore, failed to experience. As part of her “Nasty Naughty Boy” act, Aguilera and her female dancers were supposed to strap a male fan to the gargantuan bull’s-eye structure that she entered with during the circus chapter of the show, and whip him mischievously. This entire performance was unfortunately removed in the Asian leg of the tour as it was deemed too raunchy.
That letdown aside, fans had lots to remember from this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whatever expectation that was set with regards to Aguilera performing live was unquestionably exceeded with this legend’s titanic, powerhouse vocal ability, especially with “Hurt” which gave her abundant opportunities to show off her immense vocal range. It was, without doubt, the best vocal performance of the evening.
Such a huge, soulful voice called to mind classic acts like Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, all of whom, as she shared during the show, were musical inspirations to the young singer herself. Song after song, she nailed every performance with her awe-inspiring voice and never failed to leave audiences hollering for more.
If there’s one thing Ms Aguilera is able to manipulate with ease in her audience, it’s the sense of anticipation, and this was seen through the multiple surprise elements that she introduced before many of her numbers. “Dirrty” beginning with Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango” routine by the female dancers, and “Candyman” being heralded by a quartet of drunken sailors singing their lines a cappella in darkness, were just some of the enticing details that accompanied each performance music.
The concert organizers didn’t rest on their laurels simply because they were guaranteed of sensational vocals. The visual spectacle that was staged complemented it impeccably. Roberto Cavalli couldn’t have captured the style of the tour more accurately with his stunning original costume pieces, most notably the classic, white ensemble that accompanied the pandemonic opening.
Enthralling stage props like the grand lighted stairway, the carousel horse and the endless ray of carnival sets were set to blow the crowd away, together with the videos of tracks like “Thank You (Dedication to the fans…)”, “I Got Trouble” and “Intro (Back To Basics)” made especially for the tour.
It’s through all these details that you come to realise this isn’t your typical music concert. With Christina, it’s always artistic brilliance at its epitomic level.
With this wondrous, whimsical voyage that she takes us through, Aguilera has secured herself the royal crown of the pop music world in the near future, and it’s most definitely only a matter of time (I reckon by her greatest hits album, latest) before she’s enthroned as our new queen.
Unquestionably, 5 out of 5 stars!
For more information on Christina Aguilera and her tour, visit her official website at www.christinaaguilera.com
Pictures provided courtesy of Michel Coset from The Netherlands.