Review: Dua Lipa at O2 Academy, Bournemouth

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A NEW RULER

In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth. For what it's worth, I think that He might've created Dua Lipa's live set first.

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To anyone who had encountered her work in the 18 protracted months between amorous entrance ‘New Love’ and the release of her debut album, it wasn’t particularly hard to fathom Dua Lipa as a bonafide pop superstar just simmering gently before something truly massive. Eventually, it was the seventh single properly pushed from the record that proved to be said something – over the summer, the defiant breakup recovery jam ‘New Rules’ turned her from a perennial hope to one of the top ten most-streamed artists on the planet.

Thus, in the grand scheme of what is now almost certain to come, her autumn schedule feels like a bizarrely quaint juncture. Less than a week on from trying on arena life for size with Bruno Mars in North America, The Self-Titled Tour – which will now stretch to venues like Alexandra Palace and Birmingham’s Genting Arena in the spring after some exotic stadium dates in Coldplay’s company – kicked off earlier this month, including a chilly Friday night in an art deco Bournemouth hall nestled amongst a gaggle of fast food outlets.

Taking the stage with a three-piece band in the shadows whilst the pan chimes of ‘Hotter Than Hell’ emerged from what felt like a scarlet-washed sonic tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey, it took a very brief moment – around five words, to be precise – for Lipa to properly find her voice for the evening. Bounding across the stage for an opening compendium that also featured contagious deluxe bonus slice ‘Dreams’ and her party-starting hook from Sean Paul’s ‘No Lie’ introduced her with the sort of energy that even the most casual of observers will, by now, be very accustomed to. Even during less conspicuous album material, there was still a healthy echo emanating from the audience, naturally building to a giddy euphoria around encore cuts ‘Be The One’ and ‘New Rules.’

Sans Miguel, ‘Lost In Your Light’ offered the first opportunity for Lipa to properly perform without a current of tropical glee dragging her away from the comfort of the mic stand. With songs from Dua Lipa ranging from biblical pleas for forgiveness (‘Genesis’) to songs about exes that have 1,800 people pouring their resentment through the outstretched middle fingers parading around the stage (‘IDGAF’), there is plenty of variety within for her impossibly rich vocal to recite, and when the tempo dropped was when the performance lifted from coruscating pop to a realm of sheer bliss.

Peering beyond the hits through her YouTube archives unveils marvellous covers of Etta James and Amy Winehouse (as well as more contemporary and equally rational takes on Sam Smith and Young Thug), and, although there is nothing in the current setlist with quite the same delectable vintage warmth, the mid-set toned-down likes of ‘Thinking ’Bout You’ and the crowd-illuminated ‘New Love’ certainly come closest. From storming toplines on eye-wateringly huge dance tracks (‘Scared To Be Lonely’) to intimate bedroom session-style longing confessionals with just a guitar for company, an evening in Dua Lipa’s beguiling presence is one of today’s greatest treats.

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Official email person, rambly music writer, and former Records Editor at The Edge. Often found playing pop music too loud on Surge Radio.

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