Review: Dua Lipa makes SF debut as conquering warrior

Dua Lipa

Photos: Gary Chancer

SAN FRANCISCO — A year ago at roughly this time, Londoner Dua Lipa was one of hundreds of musicians descending on SXSW in Austin with big dreams and a bit of buzz. The singer-songwriter’s successes since that time, mostly in the U.K. and Europe, accelerated her steep climb to the top of sales and album charts. TIME and Billboard placed her self-titled debut album, out June 2, on their watch lists. And her singled have sold 2 million copies worldwide.

Friday, the smoky-voiced singer performed in San Francisco for the first time, and a rocking Great American Music Hall greeted Lipa with 55 minutes of nonstop screaming, often drowning out her vocals completely. In other words, Lipa arrived in San Francisco not as a new artist looking to prove herself, but a conquering queen accepting praise.

Dua Lipa (that’s not a moniker; she was born to Albanian parents, and her father was an Albanian rock musician) is a pop star now, with a voice and stage presence akin to Marina and the Diamonds, but with heavy R&B undertones. Friday, she took the stage in a puffy tin foil-silver shirt following a brief intro jam by her backing trio, and launched right into “Last Dance,” one of her singles, and new song “Want To,” off the upcoming album. While those tracks and “Bad Together,” which followed, certainly got the room dancing, the vocals were muffled and overpowered by screaming fans, a majority of them teens. The problem here was the two songs were new, so rather than singing along, all the fans could do was listen or scream. Many chose to scream.

Whatever the sound issues, they were resolved by the next track, a stuttering mid-tempo ballad “Room For 2.” From that point on, artist and audience were in-sync with each other. On another song, single “Hotter Than Hell,” Lipa let a male fan handle two lines of a verse, and he didn’t miss a step. By new track “Dreams,” the floor was shaking. With ballad “Thinking ‘Bout You,” she shows she could hold a melody all by herself. And by “Be The One” a couple songs later, the show had reached its zenith. The bad news was that she had only one song left, her newest single and biggest American hit, “Blow Your Mind (Mwah).”

Here’s hoping Lipa has more material in store.

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