Charli XCX may be an up-and-coming pop star who basks in the grimy spirit of punk rock, but she’s not too cool to still cuddle up to her parents whenever they can join her on tour.
At a recent concert at the Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles, she greeted her audience with a middle finger in the air and kicked off the show with the title track from Sucker, her upcoming album. That word was also branded across the chest of the cheerleader outfits she and her band wore, and it floated around the room on gold-colored balloons that proclaimed, "IT’S PROM SUCKERS."
If you somehow missed all those clues, the tiara on Charli’s head made sure everyone knew who was queen of the night.
The same chaotic, honest energy seen in her video for "Break the Rules" was felt in the way she thrashed through six new tracks she's been performing on tour. Her fans loved it.
"The fans have been intense, but in the best way," Charli told ETonline. "They’ve made me some really amazing gifts -- drawings and paintings and blow-up Justin Bieber dolls. It's been cool."
Growing up in London, Charli never got to experience having a band play at her own school -- she didn’t even have a prom -- but she knows exactly who she would've liked to see. "The Donnas," she said, "just because I don't really feel like you can have a proper school dance without them playing.”
In August, she told ETonline, "[The record is] a pop album, but it definitely has punk elements to it. It has a very wild energy. It’s raw."
And it sounded like it in her live show. The wild ride didn't even stop when Charli covered Icona Pop’s massive hit “I Love It,” which Charli wrote and was featured on. That punk influence also colored new renditions of her older songs, making them even more exhilarating.
"I experimented with punk music as a way of getting my aggression out,” Charli, 22, told ETonline after her LA show. "I felt like I'd got into a routine of writing pop music. I felt like I was a machine. I wanted to do something different, so making some punk songs and not giving a f*** was a way for me to let go. It was kind of like therapy. I got all my anger out and then I was able to write pop music again."
If all of that wasn’t in-your-face enough, Charli punched and stomped her way through a guitar-heavy, edgy version of “Fancy” and ended the song by getting the crowd to chant “P***y! Power!” along with her and her all-female band. “They're all super talented and it’s cool playing with girls,” Charli told us. “We're all kinda tomboy-ish so it's fun for us to do our thing.”
In fact, the only time Charli stopped the concert was to have the audience show some affection to another important woman in the building -- her mother, Shameera. “She’s going to hate me,” Charli said, before leading the sold-out crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to her mom.
After the show, we asked if her mom really was upset by the attention.
“She was totally embarrassed, but I think secretly she liked it,” Charli said. Her parents don’t get to travel with her much, but she loved having them join her for the last few shows of her tour. “They're such characters. They're cool to be around.”
Fans can pre-order Sucker now, which is due for U.S. release from Neon Gold/Atlantic Records on Dec. 16.