Zoe Badwi has a hell of a challenge before her. It’s her duty to entertain an entire arena worth of rabid pop fans, mostly children, for an entire half-hour while they await the arrival of the act whose name is printed on the tickets. The only things she’s been given to do this are a microphone, an industrial-strength fan and two CDJ decks; with a giant curtain hanging over most of the stage – meaning there’s about a quarter of the space there normally is. Can our heroine MacGuyver her way out of this one? Well, yes and no. Yes, she throws together a mix of crowd-pleasing bangers – mostly remixes of pop hits, as well as some of her own songs – but the performance itself is simply bizarre to watch and objectively report on. It’s primarily Badwi doing her part to hype up the crowd and occasionally singing over the tracks as the mix seamlessly plays out. Including it in a review feels somewhat counteractive, on account of there being minimal elements of the set to actually review. It’s brought up here for completion’s sake, but also to openly ponder the logistics of having such an opener involved.
For one of the more minimal set-ups in recent memory of an arena pop show – three screens, four dancers, four microphones and a backing track with no band – it’s endlessly curious what took 50 minutes between Badwi’s departure and Little Mix’s arrival. Then again, chances are you won’t see a show nearly as calculated as that of the British quartet’s – each song runs to a video where footage of the group singing, meaning the live vocals have to be exactly on point every single time. It’s a little odd, sure, but visually it’s quite compelling. Truthfully, this crowd could have waited from noon – and some of those hugging the barrier quite possibly did – and it still would have promptly shrieked the roof off the second each member marched on-stage and launched into Glory Days single “Power.”
There’s an undeniable power and energy to Little Mix as a united front. They move with impeccably-detailed synchronicity, gyrating and oscillating wildly in a manner that that would leave lesser performers doubled over halfway through the second song. At the same time, their vocals shine; quickly refuting the long-held mindset that mainstream pop shows are entirely preoccupied with pre-recorded guides. Truthfully, there’s a lot of work that goes into a Little Mix show – and the titular characters are no slouches. To borrow a phrase from one Homer Simpson, theirs is a collective butt that simply will not quit. And really, with thousands of die-hards losing their collective mind with every shimmy, shake and high note, why should it?
That’s the thing about these sort of shows – in order for it to really make sense, you have to remove yourself from the equation somewhat to understand exactly what this means to those that obsess over this music and these songs. For every young woman who heard “Wings” or “No More Sad Songs” and felt empowered. For every queer kid who is touched directly as the group dedicate “Another Love Song, Pt. II” to the LGBT community in the wake of the latest presidential attack on trans* livelihood. For anyone that hears “Shout Out to My Ex,” pictures their own and sees themselves in a better place. That’s what this is all about – and once you appreciate that, you’re able to see the big picture and properly appreciate this show and ones of its ilk. For young and old, Little Mix is a rave unto the joy fantastic.
– David James Young