If there’s a cardinal rule of pop music, it’s, “Make it look easy.”
British singer Dua Lipa passed that test with flying colors in her concert on Saturday night at a packed Value City Arena.
Performing 90 minutes of dance-worthy music, the singer-songwriter bounced, strutted, jumped, skipped, kicked and prowled across two stages connected by a long runway, appearing thoroughly comfortable and at ease.
Her “Future Nostalgia” tour, based largely on the 2020 album of the same name that has produced hit after hit — and for which she won a Grammy for best pop vocal album — kept the focus on the songs from that album, with just a few forays into tunes from her earlier work.
Both the music and the visuals playfully harkened back to the ’80s, with a nod to that era’s shiny, iridescent vision of the future.
Before Dua Lipa even emerged, to perform an energetic and mood-setting aerobic version of “Physical,” the 10 dancers who accompanied her throughout were introduced via brief video presentations.
Although Lipa was also accompanied by four background singers and a band, the emphasis on the dancers — a couple of whom also showed off some remarkable roller-skating ability during the show — and on the show’s choreography, was well-deserved.
With too polished a form of choreography, the glossy, admittedly shallow disco-tinged songs might not have engaged the audience on a human level. The show’s loose, joyous choreography lets them breathe. It’s as if little love affairs or breakups, and human interactions of all sorts are happening all over the stage during the songs.
It was also a sheer pleasure to see Lipa take part in the general melee, rather than standing apart or above it.
With a smooth alto voice, a nice sense of timing and some captivating dance moves, she brought the songs to life.
Though she didn’t stop the momentum long to chat with the audience, she did manage to work a couple choruses of “OH – IO” into the set.
Although the concert was full of arena-appropriate special effects, they had a likable retro feel, whether it was the giant inflatable lobster in front of which Lipa sang “We’re Good,” or the light-bedecked basket in which she made a dazzling ascension as she sang “Levitating.”
The candy-colored costumes, including the neon catsuit and opera gloves Lipa sported for much of the first half of the concert, also echoed the ’80s.
All that wouldn’t matter, of course, if the songs didn’t work, but they are masterfully constructed little celebrations of desire, the ability to say “no” if the occasion warrants and, especially, the sheer pleasure of dance and movement, no matter what the occasion.
This was the rare concert in which the pace never flagged. With no down time for brooding ballads or long monologues, the time flew by.
Opening the show were two far less elaborate but satisfyingly compelling sets by singer-songwriters. Lolo Zouai bopped blissfully around the stage in an alternately languid and flirtatious set of songs, while Caroline Polachek went for full-scale drama with a voice with incredible range and a persona part chanteuse, part flamenco dancer and part performance artist.