The Future Nostalgia Tour Certifies Dua Lipa As Britain's Top Pop Star
"This is the nicest welcome home ever," Dua Lipa says a couple of songs into her UK set.
"This show has been in the works for ages. We've moved, postponed, and finally arrived."
On the catwalk of her huge stage, the 26-year-old soaked up the adoration of 21,000 admirers waiting two years to see her at Manchester's AO Arena.
It was a reunion, not just a pop concert.
Let's go back in time for context. As news of a new, potentially fatal illness from China spread, the Future Nostalgia tour was announced in December 2019.
The world was in lockdown when Dua's second album (named Future Nostalgia) came out the following March.
The singer feared producing a happy dance-pop record while people were suffering.
She told viewers in a tearful Instagram live that "music, joy, and trying to see the light" are what the world needs right now.
Her gut was right.
Instead of reminding us of what we'd lost, the album envisioned us huddled together, singing these songs in harmony. "Premonition that we fell into a rhythm where the music doesn't stop for life," Dua said, and Future Nostalgia became 2020's most-streamed album.
Still, Covid restrictions hampered her tour. Three postponements forced Dua to find new ways to keep her music alive, including the chart-topping Elton John duet Cold Heart.
The roar that greeted the star on Friday night was a peculiar mixture of exhilaration and relief.
Opening with Hot Streak's 1980s breakdance song Body Work ("music makes you lose control"), Dua declared her aim to celebrate dancefloor abandon.
She entered the stage in an electric pink Balenciaga corset bodice, threw shapes at a ballet barre, romped down the runway, and dipped into some 80s-inspired aerobics.
The singer blasted through her best hits - New Rules, Break My Heart, Love Again, Be The One - accompanied by 12 tireless dancers.
The minimal setup allowed the band to stretch Dua's songs for maximum dancefloor impact.
Daft Punk's Technologic was included into Hallucinate and Break My Heart. Even the female empowerment hymn Boys Will Be Boys got a clattering carnival remix with a Gwen Stefani sample.
Dua stole a tactic from Madonna, inserting her music right into the pop canon, giving homage while establishing her power. The platinum-plated hits of Future Nostalgia weathered the comparisons.
The choreography drew on decades of dance history. Dua was orbited by two roller-disco skaters in New Rules.
During Hallucinate, choreographer Charm La'Donna riffed on Bob Fosse's chair routines and incorporated New York Warehouse vibes to the dance hit Electricity. She even tossed in some hokey-cokey at one point.
Finale: Dua reproduced the infamous clumsy, hip-wiggling gesture that spawned a "Dua can't dance" meme in 2019. ("I admire her lack of vitality," said one. "Go girl, no").
That she can laugh at herself is proof that she's honed her stagecraft.
The show could've used more humour. During We're Good, a gigantic inflatable lobster arrived (a throwback to the music video that would take too long to explain here).
That's not the point of Future Nostalgia. It's about recognising Dua Lipa's rise as a music star.
She can simply throw away a massive success like New Rules two songs into her act, knowing she has a dozen additional music the audience knows just as well.
On Friday, she sang Levitating while wearing a Thierry Mugler catsuit embroidered with 120,000 crystals. Then she did a victory lap around the disco-funk of Don't Start Now.
For the second time, the supporters drowned her out, as if they'd spent the lockdown memorising the lines and were now getting to perform. Onstage, Dua was having the same issue.
Baby, she did a 180. See where she ended up.