They came to get “Dirrty”, but thanks to the weather gods, most of the 20,000 fans who attended ALWAYS LIVE’s headlining event simply got a bit drenched instead. The Victorian Government splashed the cash to lure US singer Christina Aguilera to Melbourne’s Flemington Racecourse for an exclusive one-off performance on Saturday night, her first local concert in about 15 years.
We arrived to a venue setup surprisingly familiar to a typical rock festival at Flemington, and the sounds of Jessica Mauboy echoing in the early evening sky. A fitting local choice to warm up the masses, Mauboy and her band did their job well as she rolled through her own catalogue of hits including “Can I Get a Moment?”, “Pop a Bottle”, and “Inescapable”.
Everyone was hyped until the rain started pelting down not long after Mauboy’s set, and Flemington became a sea of ponchos and umbrellas. Roadies were soon scrambling to dry up the stage, and Aguilera wasn’t exactly rushing on for her scheduled 8.15pm start.
Twenty-five minutes later, at 8.40pm, the lights dimmed, there was a palpable sense of relief and plenty of screams, and Aguilera arrived. And she came out all guns blazing with her Stripped album intro and some of her most memorable hits including “Dirrty” and “Genie in a Bottle”, albeit, not in their entirety.
Several other tracks also got the ‘segment’ treatment, and that’s where the live music purists amongst us would have been disappointed, as a good chunk of the show felt like one giant megamix.
On top of that, she dashed off stage at least three times and handed over to her dancers to bust some moves, and her backup singers got ample time to shine, particularly on the songs she ‘guested’ on including Pitbull’s “Feel This Moment” and Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger”. This did allow for one of the more tender moments of the night, though, when vocalist Nelson combined with Aguilera for A Great Big World’s “Say Something”, notably delivered in full.
Make no mistake, this giant compressed set did do exactly what it served to do – showcasing that voice with several supreme vocal runs, one even to the tune of “Melbourne”. And Aguilera didn’t skimp on interactions either, smartly saluting the crowd for braving the wet weather and saying how happy she was to be here. She delivered a perfect segue explaining how she last performed here while pregnant 15 years ago, thanking the crowd for sticking by her through the years, and then singing “I Want to Thank You” as the opening lyric of “What a Girl Wants.”
As the rain eventually eased, the concert fittingly finished on a high. A mass of phone lights provided the perfect visual accompaniment to her iconic ballad “Beautiful”, followed by the sassy “Lady Marmalade” and her band amping things up for “Fighter”. Aguilera and her crew then came together to finish with “Let There Be Love”, and in a cute moment, her young daughter also made a cameo at the end, uttering a “Hi” right before they both left the stage.
Clocking in at about 75-80 minutes, this was by no means the most supreme of comeback performances. But for those 2000s kids wanting to experience their teen idol live and get a showcase of what makes her voice so great, Aguilera did enough to give them what a girl (or guy) wants, even if they may have had to add a poncho to their party kit.