–By Jen Cunningham
–Photos by Sean Derrick
Christina Aguilera, who once headlined sold out arenas, on Tuesday played for a near capacity crowd at the smaller intimate venue of the Stifel Theatre in downtown Saint Louis.
Xtina making her debut after her 6 year hiatus, with her “Liberation” tour named after the album released in June. Xtina seems to use this as a journal of sex, desire, heart ache, self destruction, self empowerment, reinvention, and eventually love. The stages of liberation, if you will.
The show, like the album, leaps from genre to genre, with little to no segue way. The show opens to “Maria” with Xtrina floating on to the stage in a larger than life, red dress. Xtina and her powerhouse vocals were happy to be back on the stage, saying she was finally back home where she belongs.
The second number features Aguilera on her throne with the words on the digital screen reading “the queen is BACK”. As the star broke into one of her classics “Dirty” the crowd jumped to their feet dancing, enjoying the sound that we have grown to love from Xtina for the past 20 years.
I will be honest, my original review came across a little brash, because the new Xtina is quite a switch from the Christina I grew up with. While I still cant quite figure out what she was liberated from, its clear that she’s definitely a different woman.
The costumes were very beautifully designed. Honestly I would expect to see these types of costumes on the Broadway stage. The lighting and HD projectors added a lot of flare to the performance. There were a lot of theatrics in this show.
This is where is goes dark for me. While I appreciate creative expression in working through emotions, I feel like someone dropped the ball. Christina Aguilera is/was a pop icon. The song “Dirrty” is catchy and fun but it really wasn’t dirty. This tour needs a warning label. Christina Aguilera has always pushed the envelope with innuendo, but some of these lyrics are…wow. They teeter between angry and raunchy.
I couldn’t help but notice all the excited little girls waiting in the lobby before the show was ready to begin. All of their mothers around the same age as myself and Aguilera (37). We grew up with Aguilera, and “What a Girl Wants”, “Candyman”, “Ain’t No Other Man”. She was literally the soundtrack to our youth.
The music on the new album hasn’t had much radio play on the major pop stations here in St Louis. I had no idea that our former Pop Goddess had crossed over into other genres, hip hop, R&B, and Reggae. I really wasn’t prepared for this version. The “fill me up, that’s what I need” (lyrics from the song “Liberation”) version. It was a little jarring.
Even when the star slows it down for her cover of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World”…the theatrics that accompany it, are not cohesive in any way. The lyrics to “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” talk about how men created things to make a life, (cars, boats, trains) but that none of that means anything without a woman to share it with.
The theatrics of this show, depict a negative and abusive relationship between this man and woman. It shows him drinking and then him drunkenly dragging her around by the hair of the head. Then begins the cat and mouse game of violence to sex, to this mans face between her legs, to ending with her cracking him over the head with a beer bottle. What is that?? The poster couple for toxic relationships?
The show leaps from something like that to her bringing her young daughter out on stage to sing the song “Beautiful”. THAT is BEAUTIFUL. The show just seemed to have extreme highs and lows. You go on this emotional journey from, despair, to rage (with everyone on stage flying the middle finger), to tragedy, to desire, to passion (my nice way of saying a lot of sex), to self acceptance/empowerment, to finally Love. Let me just say its a jaw dropping ride.
On the positives notes, the singer has lost NOTHING during her 6 year sabbatical. She’s the same vocal powerhouse we’ve grown to love over the years. She seems to be taking big risks and playing by her own rules. I’m not sure the new album will be blaze that her early albums were, but it is definitely the most raw. If you ever wanted to listen to a digital diary, this may be the album for you. Not many women have, or will ever have, the vocal range and depth of Christina Aguilera.
I’ve always said that art is tangible emotion. Check it out on iTunes or where ever you stream your music.
Be sure to check out the full photo gallery after the setlist.
Christina Aguilera Setlist:
Genie in a Bottle
Sick of Sittin’
What a Girl Wants/Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)
Keep On Singin’ My Song
Can’t Hold Us Down
Lady Marmalade (LaBelle cover)
Back in the Day (Instrumental)
Ain’t No Other Man
Say Something (A Great Big World cover)
It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World (James Brown cover)
Fall in Line
Unless It’s With You
Let There Be Love