Christine and the Queens at the Vic Theatre | Héloïse Letissier Boasts Her Inner Man

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Christine and the Queens (Photo: Simon Genillier Roelsgaard)

By WGN Radio Producer Elif Geris, originally published in Third Coast Review

A Tuesday night at the Vic Theatre, not quite packed, but close enough, and Christine and the Queens is beginning its conquest of the United States with this Chicago stop, and with group choreography.

Christine and the Queens is the moniker for Héloïse Letissier, a young French singer and songwriter, who resembles the female version of Michael Jackson. She continues his legacy in the form of dance. Letissier, along with four men, stomped across the stage, threw her arms jaggedly and in the style of Jackson, all the while karate kicking her legs in the air, and creating a wave that moved seamlessly from left to right.

(Photo: Simon Genillier Roelsgaard)

Christine and the Queens (Photo: Simon Genillier Roelsgaard)

Everyone could see her larger than life, independently dancing silhouette on the back screen as Letissier performed “iT,” my personal favorite. This “new girl” drove symbolism home in Tuesday’s performance, and this was one of my favorite examples. Lyrics to this song include, “I won’t let you steal it, I bought it for myself, I’m a man now,” which likely pinpoint controversy sparked by the transgender community.

But when I initially discovered the song and listened closely to the lyrics, I heard a young woman living in a still sexist community, working to become not the best woman she can be, but to simply be a man. And that large, tall, black figure standing behind Letissier as she performed is that unknown “man” within us, who, for a change, won’t get crushed.

The more I watched her move, the more I saw Letissier claim for herself the success and love that Michael Jackson enjoyed until he changed himself.

But the choreography isn’t the only element worth highlighting from Tuesday’s performance. Christine and the Queens opened its set with one gold blob of light, emanating from the floor upstage, diagonally towards the balcony spectators.

It became clear throughout the show that this particular light might have symbolized the opening and closing of the mind’s eye. Letissier carried a strong theme of loss and realization, so it appeared to symbolize a struggle to understand oneself and one’s fate.

Chills crept up my legs and traveled to my head, bringing me to the verge of tears as Letissier performed “Here,” a slow, deliberate song. As a disclaimer, I rarely feel this many things at concerts. As she lamented that, “Here is where everything happened/Don’t let anything be lost” her face was depicted in waves on a white rectangular screen behind her, like she was a piece of melting wax in an empty room.

She masterfully portrayed to us a memory growing further and further from sight, and as tightly as we try to hold on to them, they always find a way to become distorted, like Letissier’s face in the white frame. Finally, her face disappeared from the frame, and the white rectangle shrunk into the black distance, as the live Letissier stood still, head down, and lights trickled around her in a spiraling motion.

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Héloïse Letissier performs “Here” (Photo: Simon Genillier Roelsgaard)

The simplicity and delicate volume of the lighting allowed me just to hear her voice belt through the venue as she repeatedly cried, “Here.”

Because her self-titled album ranges fairly between fast, energetic songs and slow songs like “Here,” the band switched gears often. Before we knew it, the audience was in a French discotheque on the North Side of Chicago, listening to Chicago’s own House beats. Letissier was right when she announced that she could turn the Vic Theatre into a French discotheque.

The performance was full of dance interludes that accompanied the banging beats, inspiring some serious dance moves from the audience, as she and her own dance team tossed roses. These new beats were an infectious transition following the songs she performed from her album.

Needless to say, Christine and the Queens put on the best show since June when I felt the floor shake at the House of Blues, and listened to Caravan Palace‘s electro-swing storm. The French are rocking it.