Concert Review: Christina Aguilera at Manchester Arena

It’s been 13 years since Christina Aguilera last toured in the UK, which is also the same length of time since she last had a hit album or solo single. Fortunately though, her star power and crowd-pulling and pleasing ability have not waned like many thought it had.

On Tuesday 12th November she brought her highly anticipated “The X Tour” to Manchester on its so far well-received UK leg. The tour celebrates her 20th year in the music industry – after many highs and lows – taking concertgoers on a journey through her extensive and varied catalogue. And like her shows in Dublin, Glasgow and London, it was pleasantly surprising to see it was pretty much a sellout gig, as I was apprehensive as to whether she’d manage to pack it out considering her recent years of minor chart success.

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Cheeky, Dirrty and kinky – one of Christina’s many daring outfits.

Having seen her back in 2003 and 2006 for the Stripped and Back to Basics tours, I can assure you she has not lost her touch when it comes to putting on a show that combines the visual spectacle that less able singers are more well known for (Britney, Katy, etc.) and the times where it’s just her voice that’s allowed to shine, which few divas have the nerve and talent to attempt (Mariah, Celine, etc.). And that’s something she’s always had the advantage of over many of her contemporaries including those who came before her, her peers from the same generation and those whom she was a trailblazer for.

I also saw Cher perform at the same venue two weeks prior and while she was great and the show stopping queen she always has been with similarly breathtaking visuals and her unique voice, I daresay Christina was better. And not just because she kept video montages of her songs to a minimum and didn’t ramble on with a 10 minute monologue at the beginning, though not having these did tip the odds in her favour…

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Xtina embodied the “futuristic” sound of album Bionic as she performed its title track in this galactic getup.

The only slight criticism I would have given the show is its over crammed set list. Several songs were shortened (no second verse of The Voice Within or Ain’t No Other Man and only given a snippet of Liberation’s lead single Accelerate) and some of her best were mixed together as part of medleys (while it’s exciting that she finally performs Your Body live, it’s over before it really starts). And although she gives the underrated album “Bionic” a fair bit of justice, she didn’t perform its lead single Not Myself Tonight, which is a certified banger!

We are also left wondering why she chose to unnecessarily include Feel This Moment – a Pitbull song she featured on in 2012 – when she could have easily fitted in another of her own and better solo songs. And even though Moves Like Jagger was a huge global hit for herself and Maroon 5, it is essentially more their song than hers and is another she didn’t need to perform just because she sang 30 seconds on the original track. Other songs that were unfortunately forgotten and shouldn’t have been include Hurt and You Lost Me (there was a lack of ballads in general), while What A Girl Wants, Come On Over and Express deserved more airing as well. She also failed to give Manchester an exclusive performance of a song she hadn’t done on the tour so far. Having heard she’d treated fans in other cities to Stripped fan favourite Keep On Singin’ My Song, a cover of James Brown’s It’s A Man’s World and Twice, a ballad from Liberation, it’s a shame we didn’t get any of those or others.

Those disappointments aside, one can’t complain too much as she had certainly listened to the pleas of many fans to pay tribute to some songs she’d never performed before and done well to fit that many into a show that had to showcase a two-decade long career. Cher could’ve taken some tips on board by ditching a couple of songs she decided to perform, cutting that drivelling anecdote and the video clips short and adding in at least 3 or 4 more classic hits (including another ABBA song) that were left off her set list.

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Christina’s take on The Virgin Mary for the church segment of the show.

Visually, the show was stunning. An array of outfits that ranged from futuristic/space-inspired to sparkly and festive (one costume lit up like Christmas lights in the dark), and from classic Xtina (those infamous chaps in shiny gold) to rather kinky (PVC from head to toe and choke collar with chains). The more reserved side of Christina was also represented in the gospel segment as she donned a gorgeous floor length blue dress (with a plunging neckline and slits down the legs of course) and a matching floral crown, looking every bit the goddess she is. The staging featured a flight of stairs she and her dancers could strut up and down, lasers, lights, fire blasters, sparklers and confetti and even giant balloons – she went all out for her welcome back party. And of course, because of the queen she is, she made an entrance on a throne not once, but twice! She also pulled off more choreography than she has in recent tours and performances. Although she’s had experience dancing in music videos and of course Burlesque, she’s known to prefer letting her voice be the priority over dancing, but got down to it for Dirrty, Express and Lady Marmalade, while still maintaining top notch vocals.

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One of two thrones Queen Xtina entered the stage on.

Vocally, she also delivered. Famous for her big, bombastic voice and love of riffs and runs, but also notorious for overdoing it and sometimes dodging the hard parts or cracking, Christina was very much on form, proving that golden voice is still in tact. Of course, she cleverly “allowed” her backing singers and the audience to join in on, coincidentally, some of the tough bits but for the most part she kept melismas to a minimum during songs bar a few beginnings and endings – which the crowd lapped up.

The show’s highlights included an overdue – if unfortunately short – nod to both the Bionic and Lotus albums in what was a very impressive opening that set the concert’s tone and energy (which barely faltered), a raucous and rowdy performance of Dirrty, and a cheeky mashup of Candyman and I Want Candy. A duet of Say Something with one of her backing singers where she dialled down the theatrics and the volume button on her vocals for a moving delivery, and Beautiful – which unsurprisingly got everybody singing along to – also deserve special mention.

Fingers crossed that it’s not too long now until her next album – that will hopefully drum up the deserved praise and commercial success she once received – and tour to follow, where hopefully other songs from her vast discography are included and some aren’t shortened. However, it was amazing to have Christina back in the public eye to prove she’s just as brilliant, Beautiful, Dirrty, and diva-like as she’s always been and to see so many people excited to relive her iconic music and (finally) appreciate one of their childhood and teenage idols behind said music… Because let’s be honest, why didn’t several thousand of those who went to all her shows not buy her last albums???

Rating: 4/5 stars

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