Leeds’ O2 Academy has seen plenty of sold-out nights, yet the queues outside have never seemed so endless as they were tonight. The line for Dua Lipa snakes around the building and along the street, with some having waited outside all day, determined to be as close to the rising pop icon as possible. It’s the kind of dedicated fanbase – and Dua the kind of artist – that warrants an arena show, but here we are. It’s likely to be the last of this kind; everyone knows it, and that knowledge only adds to the excitement.
Opening act Grace Carter gives a simple and elegant performance. There is no fanfare, no routine – just a woman, a small band, and a microphone. Not everyone could carry it off, but Grace’s mesmerising vocals are rich enough that she can.
Dua Lipa gives, from the very beginning, much more than just a Performance. She opens with her breakout single, ‘Hotter Than Hell’, and immediately gets everyone in the room dancing. She’s a star, through and through; one who knows how to work a crowd. When she performs her singles – particularly ‘Blow Your Mind (Mwah)’ – that’s clear. But what’s really apparent tonight is how genuinely stunning her voice is. In the middle of the set, the band leaves the stage and we get to hear Dua accompanied only by a guitar. She gets emotional singing ‘New Love’, a song she tells us was the hardest for her to write, and everyone in the room can feel it. We sing it back to her as loud as is possible without drowning her out, and it feels like something special is happening here in this room. It feels like a coming together.
The encore begins with ‘Homesick’, an underrated album track which – in this live setting – gives everyone goose bumps. Watching Dua Lipa on stage, it’s easy to see that she really loves her album and feels truly proud to be sharing it with the people of Leeds tonight. Closing with song of the summer, ‘New Rules’, she gets everyone in the room to crouch down on the floor. When we jump up, the building shakes and everyone dances as if it’s their last dance. There are no inhibitions – everyone is too lost in Dua Lipa’s light to care.
Words by Sophia Simon-Bashall
Images by Meg Firth