Dorian Electra live in London: a masterclass in messy, irreverent camp

Dorian Electra in army regalia for 'Idolize' single release

There is a certain level of showmanship that you can expect from a Dorian Electra show.

If the high drama and campy concepts written through their last three albums aren’t a clue in themselves, their live show is a spectacle wrought from the most reverently irreverent take on drag and camp. At least three costume changes, a cast of dancers and a baroque painted backdrop converge to form a scrappy, messy and wildly fun live show.

Electra has a keen sense of where the dramatic and the ridiculous should meet, knowing exactly what silly thing to put where to provoke a mixture of laughter and awe. During the double time breakdown in ‘Touch Grass‘, Electra and their dancers perform a mock-Irish jig with a completely straight face in front of the flimsiest camo backdrop held up by stage hands. It’s hilarious but also brilliant and provokes roars and impressed clicks from the crowd.

In full draggy soldier’s costume complete with brocaded bloomers and exaggerated shoulder pads, their dancer ‘beheads’ them and holds up a mannequin head in a bad wig version of their signature yellow hair. As they disappear off-stage to change yet again, a dancer in full silk clown costume and a golden tragedy mask parades the mannequin head around stage to an operatic aria. They cut off a lock of the wigged hair and throw it to grasping hands.

‘Warning Signs’ from their recent album Fanfare is delivered like a sit-down Adele-style ballad, the musical nods to My Chemical Romance’s ‘Black Parade‘ becoming starkly obvious with everything else stripped away on-stage.

They know how to give the crowd what they want, teasing an extended intro of ‘Career Boy‘ that they perform as a solo piano number, leaning into the suggestions of lounge singer performance. They don’t even let themselves finish the song before careening straight into ‘Man To Man’, received by the crowd with loud appreciation.

For all of Dorian Electra’s theatrics and their emphasis on a good time, it’s easy to forget that the songs are actually quality and they are as much a musician as they are a circus master; that’s abundantly clear when they launch into the full-bodied wail of “man to man” in the final chorus.

Electra treads the line between sincerity and postmodern irony which creates an inherently comedic live performance when the crowd are screaming the lyrics to songs like ‘M’lady‘ and ‘Phonies’ with their whole bodies. They and Electra take the joke seriously, creating a space where everything is just as much funny as it is fabulous.

As such, the importance of artists like Electra cannot be understated: queer kids in full paint and mohawks mingle with corseted angels and neon klub kids, all spilling onto the streets outside of Electric Brixton after a stellar closing rendition of ‘Wanna Be A Star’ into ‘Sodom & Gomorrah‘ and finally ‘Freak Mode’. The air is alive with chatters and giggles and the definite sense that we have all seen something at once very silly and yet also very important.

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