It’s March 2020, a virus is bringing the whole world to a standstill and Dua Lipa has to make a decision. The British singer has been working on her second album “Future Nostalgia” for over a year. Expectations are high, in 2019 she won the Grammy for Best New Artist.
But is the onset of a global pandemic the right time to release upbeat dance-pop? “I don’t even know if this is the right decision,” Dua Lipa tearfully says in an Instagram video announcing the release of her album at the end of March. “But what we need most right now is music and joy and that we try to bring light into these situations.”
A good two years later, thousands of people in the almost sold-out Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin cheered frenetically when Dua Lipa entered the stage in a pink body suit. She made the right decision: “Future Nostalgia” became one of the most streamed albums of 2020.
But since the 26-year-old became a world star during the pandemic, there were no live performances for the time being. Her world tour had to be postponed three times.
Enthusiasm is all the greater now as Dua Lipa sets to work “Physical,” a homage to Olivia Newton-John’s workout anthem and typical of her ’80s and ’90s-inspired sound.
From the very first moment it’s clear: there’s a real pop star on stage, a “Female Alpha”, as Dua Lipa calls herself in the opening track of her album. She confidently strides from A to B, rubbing against the microphone pole, delivering athletic contortions with her crew of tireless dancers.
Her voice remains as deep and strong as you know it. There isn’t much time to relax in the 90 minutes: As on the album, one banger follows the next, the energy level remains constantly high. Ballads aren’t Dua Lipa’s thing.
Dua Lipa writes her own songs
The show, which is divided into four parts – and four outfits – consists almost exclusively of the songs from “Future Nostalgia”. One of the few exceptions is Dua Lipa’s breakthrough post-breakup New Rules. “If you’re under him / you ain’t getting over him”, echoes through the hall a thousand times.
She had her first label showcase in Berlin, the singer says in between. She was so excited that she hid in the bathroom.
Dua Lipa, whose first name means “love” in Albanian, was born in London. Her parents are Kosovar Albanians who fled the war in 1992 and later moved back with her. At 15 she returned to London alone to pursue her singing career.
Despite the retro sounds, she doesn’t have much in common with the mainstream pop stars of the 90s: she writes her own songs and didn’t have to change her image from the Disney child star first. In front of her 82 million followers on Instagram, she is not afraid to address serious issues, be it Kosovo’s independence or sexism in the industry.
The only ballad-like moment of the night comes with “Boys Will Be Boys,” a bombastic pop anthem in which Dua Lipa condemns toxic masculinity.
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She sings about how normal it is for women to go home at night with their keys in their fingers – but before too much melancholy can arise, the dancers storm back onto the stage.
An enthusiastic ring dance
After all, this evening is not about politics, but about escapism. Two dancers perform tricks on roller skates, and a giant lobster grooves offstage for the tropical mid-tempto number “We’re Good” – a nod to the song’s video, which features a crustacean narrowly escaping death in a cooking pot.
The scene is reminiscent of Katy Perry, who also likes to use oversized animals at her concerts and has a philosophy similar to that of Dua Lipa: above all, good pop should be fun and shouldn’t take itself too seriously.
The lobster even forgives pop concert clichés like the obligatory confetti cannons. They come into play at the end when Dua Lipa plays her smash hit “Don’t Start Now”. Before that, you can hear their EDM bangers, such as “One Kiss”, a collaboration with DJ Calvin Harris.
Balloons fly through the air, dancers and singers hold hands in an enthusiastic ring dance. For “Levitating” the arena transforms into space.
Dua Lipa hovers on a platform above the crowd, with inflatable planets and stars dangling beside her. For her it is “cosmic” to bring people together through music, the singer recently told “Vogue”. Not only she has been waiting for this moment for a long time.
For many visitors, too, the evening must have been the first concert since the beginning of the pandemic, the first moment of collective dancing. It was two dark years. Dua Lipa has shed some light.