Live Review: Christina Aguilera / Union J – The O2, London 05.08.2022

Maria Escobedo

Words by Adrian Peel

Hailed by opening act Union J as “the greatest voice of our generation”, Christina Aguilera stopped off at the O2 as part of a short UK tour – her first since the pandemic – which was due to culminate with a headline appearance at Brighton Pride on Saturday, August 6th.

Images of the sultry singer looking every inch the superstar diva were shown on the screens as the words “Are you ready to get dirty?” flashed up one by one. She then came out surrounded by six dancers – three men and three women – and launched into, yes, you’ve guessed it, Dirrty, her worldwide smash from 2002.

Looking amazing in a sparkly PVC bodysuit with a flame motif, long matching coat and thigh-length boots, one of the most versatile vocalists in pop then energetically performed Can’t Hold US Down – another of those instantly familiar early noughties tunes – with just her three female dancers around her.

Also ably supported by three backing singers and a solid band, Christina addressed the enthusiastic crowd – many of whom had come dressed in (often revealing) Christina Aguilera-related attire. Three ladies whom we met outside the arena even had the brilliant idea of dressing up in the white military uniforms the singer and her two dancers wore in the memorable Candy Man video.

“I love you London, let’s go on a journey tonight,” said the former Mickey Mouse Club member ahead of Bionic, the title track of her 2010 album. Genie in a Bottle and What a Girl Wants followed in quick succession and were both rapturously received – and then it was time for the first costume change of the night.

While this was going on, images of the 41-year-old New Yorker from over the last 20 years were shown while a pre-recorded voiceover described how she decided to go back to her Latin American roots for her latest album, Aguilera, a record sung entirely in Spanish and featuring collaborations with some of the biggest names in contemporary Latin music.

Still fully sequined-up, though this time in red, she came back out and sang Santo, an enjoyable reggaeton duet she cut with Puerto Rican singer and rapper Ozuna. The video for it was shown on the screens and, although well-received, there were noticeably fewer mobile phones held aloft recording during this and the Spanish-language tunes that followed: Sueltame and Pa’ Mis Muchachas, which Christina described as a “fun song” that she recorded with Becky GNicki Nicole and Nathy Peluso.

The singer thanked the members of the audience for their support over the past two decades. “I always love coming to this city,” she said. She also spoke of the current situation in the world, assuring us that we weren’t alone in feeling a strong sense of despair, and revealed how she refused to change her surname when starting out as some people in the industry thought that ‘Aguilera’ may have held her back.

It was rewarding to see and hear my favourite Christina Aguilera song Candy Man brought to life on stage, although it seemed to be over a little too soon. Indeed, it appeared that some of the tracks – particularly the older ones – didn’t quite receive the full-version treatment. Still, what a voice!

Christina brought out surprise guest Olly Alexander to join her on the beautiful Say Something. Praising her as “an icon”, the Years & Years singer did an impressive job on the song.

After yet another crowd-pleasing number, Lady Marmalade (though I’ve never really cared for it myself) – delivered as part of a burlesque section

 – the star’s incredible voice shone gloriously on the anthemic Beautiful. “This song has carried us through so much,” she said of the track, which could be considered her signature song. After it came another bona fide classic, Fighter.

Eye-catching costumes, a very well-put-together stage show, songs that have been loved the world over and a singer whose recent return to Latin music appears to have given her a new lease of life, it was a great time to have caught Christina Aguilera live in concert.

Photos by Maria Escobedo

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