Christine and the Queens spotlight angelic artistry at Fonda Theatre

Christine and the Queens played a couple nights this week between his book-ended Coachella dates last weekend and this weekend, first at San Diego’s Humphrey’s on Monday and then Wednesday at Hollywood’s Fonda Theatre. The intimate setting brought together an array of fans, who got a taste of Chris’ raw vocal power as well as his magnetic stage presence. The talent performs beyond singer status, elevating as a performance artist, identifying most recently as a male and leaning into his body and musculature on the beats and the vocals. Backed by a keyboardist (and occasional guitarist), drummer and guitarist (who provided moments of vocals), Christine and the Queens proved that some acts must be experienced live to fully grasp the gravity of the music and its meanings. The fifteen-song set included five new tracks on the forthcoming album PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE (due June 9) including one of two songs that feature Madonna, another one of two featuring 070 Shake and a mashed up version of one of his biggest tunes with a cover of one of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ most iconic ballads. French multi-instrumentalist electronic artist Lewis Ofman served as the night’s opener.

Mysterious waiting music hummed on the soundsystem prior to Chris’ entrance. Once it was show time, his arms were crossed, almost like he was to swing a baseball bat but that wasn’t it exactly, donning a black and red vest, black pants and longer hair slicked back. “Ma bien aimée bye bye” off 2022 album Redcar les adorables étoiles (prologue) was a funky opener for the pop star, fist up for much of the song. Chris was really owning the stage and feeling the applause from the crowd during some jazzy inflections and a little falsetto. It looked as though Chris was trying to conduct the ocean with his arms flailing with aggression and certainty. Another off the same album followed, with Chris’ hands out dramatically for the drum-heavy “Les étoiles”, with the three musicians in a flood of dark lighting for much of the show. Chris belted out some big notes and had his hands up while the crowd cheered him on.  A blend of slick modern dance moves combined with Michael Jackson-inspired steps told much of the song’s story with defined poses by the end.

“What a time to be alive,” declared Chris. “I chose to just arrive.” while on the stage left riser, which followed with one of the first moments of poetry in English, silhouetted for the mid-tempo “Saint Claude” off his debut album. The early gem (from 2014) showcased wonderful dynamics for Chris with brilliant falsetto. French-English hybrid “People, I’ve Been Sad”, released in early 2020 became somewhat of an anthem for loneliness during that period and Chris embodied it beautifully, back on the floor for the hypnotic downtempo bop. Fans especially loved singing along to this one, as Chris commanded the stage with maximum emotion. Big beats crashed for “la chanson du chevalier”, a dramatic tune in French with new wave grooves and another powerful vocal, with Chris making his way to the floor mid-song. 

“My life as a man is something I’ve always dreamed of”, shared Chris. They could only see my delicate figure, but if only they could see what I see.” Like a true showman or Leading Player in Pippin, Chris’ head ticks and twitches (which have become somewhat of a signature) brought everything together with the lyric “I’m a man now” and the guitarist echoed the lyrics “she wants to be a man now.” Chris belted and the entire song was a powerful moment, sharing his own growth and acceptance in himself while also challenging everything about gender and sexuality from a place that simply says: this is me.

Photo by Zoe Sher

With a nod to the upcoming album, new song “Tears” found Chris in large angel wings for the jazzy, bluesy downtempo, with accompanying vocals from the guitarist. The alluring song had the band silhouetted in an orange-yellow fog. Chris was back on the riser in a long black jacket and the wings for the pop-rock track “Doesn’t Matter” with the drummer smashing overtime and the guitarist harmonizing beautifully. Chris whipped off the wings at one point and owned some more abrupt movements by the song’s end.

An unexpected cover of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1991 classic “Under The Bridge” had Chris seated with his guitarist, sounding pure and in the pocket and then the opening beat of “Tilted” seamlessly dropped, causing a flurry from fans dancing and singing along. The song was brought back to the RHCP cover with fans joining in on “the city of angels” with Chris taking on a pose like a soldier. A vibey, “Combien de temps” brought back Chris’s swagger and hip action, getting slightly operatic at the end of the French rock song.

New tune “True Love” (which features 070 Shake) found the drummer joining Chris on the riser for a dramatic percussion pad session as Chris delivered another stunning falsetto, while the downtempo, synthy track floated across the theater. Chris had some vocoder moments while kneeling and then got back to his glorious head voice, energizing the crowd with some more hip-shaking. “Je te vois enfin” was met with a big guitar opening followed by danceable beats and strobe lights crashing on Chris, with the star offering various geometric tutting moments with his arms. It felt like a bull fight was upon us.

Photo by Zoe Sher

Another new one called “Track 10” offered a delicate opening following a really masculine energy on the previous song. It transformed into a wailing vocal, with Chris dramatically backlit and finally seated at the edge of the stage. Lots of rock instrumentation from the guitars and drums built the intensity here as the keyboardist (now playing guitar too) joined in on the madness, flailing his arms with Chris.

Christine and the Queens’ encore included new Madonna-featured track “Lick the light out” with Chris’ wings back on. Prior to the performance, he left the crowd with more poignant poetry. “I wanted to incarnate to discover the purpose of my heart that knows no boundaries, no rule. That little chirp you don’t really listen to. Such is the beating of the heart. What we do in life, it goes into eternity.” Chris was speaking on the chirping bird, of the desire, the passion, the want we all have for something that we never breathe life into. He’s a true artist, who looked up into the white light like a heavenly space as the orchestral song took over with gentle vocals. It too evolved into a stadium-ready rock tune with the lyrics “see me, hear me, feel me.” Chris held out a massive note with his hands up and added some spirit finger flair at the end, clearly enjoying every minute. The fresh track “To be honest” wrapped the set, with yet another incredible vocal, with cool synth and guitar pulsing in the background. Christine and the Queens head to the desert for Coachella Weekend 2, playing Sunday, April 23.

Words by Michael Menachem
Images by Zoe Sher