London-born rising pop star Dua Lipa doesn’t even have a full-length album out yet — but that didn’t keep her from selling out the 1,000 capacity Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
The show was just a preview of what is to come from the 21-year-old Warner Bros. signee. Though it lasted only about 50 minutes in total, Dua Lipa’s set showcased her wide range of abilities. She can perform straight-up pop songs with the best of them, but can also dial it back with ballads as well.
Early in the show, Dua Lipa’s deeper vocals were being buried underneath the sound of her backing band. You could hear it when it reached higher pitch, but her deep almost bluesy-like singing was hard to make out at the beginning. Eventually they turned her vocals up enough that you could hear the more sultry sounding vocals she delivers in many of her hits — easily one of her signatures. It’s that part of her singing — along with the type of hooks in many of the songs — that made me draw comparisons to Natasha Bedingfield right out the gate. Dua Lipa is part Bedingfield and part Charli XCX, combining the best of both worlds.
I first saw Dua Lipa play a brief set at SXSW last year at FADER Fort and knew she really had something. This was my first opportunity to see her again and the material she played from her upcoming self-titled album (due out June 1) sounded really strong to go along with the handful of singles she’s already put out. The song with the “let’s get back together” hook early in the set had a ’90’s R&B vibe to it that I really dug.
“Hotter Than Hell” (watch below) is one of her smash hits and it went off really well live. The band brought great depth to the song, especially the tropical keys sound that I noticed. Everyone in the crowd seemed to know all the words to that one — it is a true anthem. The ballad “Thinking ‘Bout You” was a nice change of pace during the set, and you could really make out her deeper vocals on this one without a heavier backing band sound.
The Martin Garrix jam that Dua Lipa is on called “Scared to Be Lonely” could be a precursor of what we can expect from her in the future. She’s confessed heavy interest in working with EDM juggernauts like Calvin Harris, and her voice certainly fits that vibe perfectly. It wouldn’t be a surprise for her to become one of the go-to pop-star guest vocalists on those tracks over the next several years.
The model-pretty Dua Lipa ditched her cool-looking acid-wash denim jacket during the later part of her set, revealing a pretty all-black outfit. During the set-closing “The One,” Lipa took a fan’s cell phone out of their hands and sang to it — probably long enough for one Snapchat — before handing it back. She later returned to the stage for the encore to finish things off with “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” — and everyone seemed to use the rest of their energy to dance to the hit.
It would have been nice to see her throw one or two more songs in just to make it a full hour. When you’re selling out 1,000-cap venues, I think an hour is the baseline amount of time you should be on stage. When I saw her at SXSW, she did a glorious rework of Jamie XX and Young Thug’s “Good Times” (which you can listen to here) — she could’ve thrown that in there to stretch her time out a bit. But nobody else seemed to be too bothered by the length of the show, and at $20 it was still very solid value.
I doubt Dua Lipa will be playing venues this size for very long. I expect the next time she’s in Los Angeles, she’ll be armed with her debut record and playing venues much bigger. She’s on pace to have a massive 2017, and it’s only getting started for her. You can catch her at a couple of festivals this year — Governors Ball and Bonnaroo — and I expect more to be added to her schedule for the fall.
Photos courtesy of Justin Higuchi