Shot! Dua Lipa in Brighton
The first night of her first UK headline tour saw the emergence of a bright young talent on the road to “dark pop” domination
The last time I photographed Dua Lipa it was at Brighton Pride in August 2016. Back then not many knew her, but she was the artist I was most looking forward to seeing. In my review, I predicted she would have a big future. I also said she’d need to work on her stage presence, because as good as she can sing, she was still somewhat anonymous as a performer. I also thought a little more make-up and a better choice of outfit, would help. I ended by saying that her track, Hotter Than Hell, could well have been the anthem for that year’s Pride.
Fast forward just over a year and the unusually named Londoner was back in Brighton. And how things had changed. Now, she was the star attraction and the huge queue snaking along Church Street was causing much bemusement among passer-by’s curious as to what all the fuss was about. The Dome had long since sold out and the truth is so probably could have been the much bigger Brighton Centre.
The more intimate venue however was the perfect place to see her and to see how she has developed as a performer. A lot’s happened since her Pride gig, the now 22-year-old Londoner has enjoyed much success, most recently with her chart topping single New Rules. She’s also graced the stages of Glastonbury and Coachella, toured with Bruno Mars, co-wrote a song with Coldplay’s Chris Martin and finally put out her twice delayed debut album.
This was the first date of her Self-Titled European headline tour and she was fashionably late taking the stage — a stage bare but for a rear screen outlined with faux-neon tubes. The screen was mainly used to show dark ‘arty’ shots of Dua, as well as a smattering of lyrics. Dark seems to be a recurring theme with her, indeed she even describes her music as “dark pop”.
The lighting was also fairly dark throughout the show sticking mostly to a palette of dark blues and reds. Behind her were three musicians, a drummer and two keyboard players, although it was clear some of the music and all the backing vocals were being triggered. A dark-eyed Dua herself sported what appeared to be a black bra and a pair of high-waisted olive green jeans with extremely wide flares.
Unlike so many of her contemporaries, she didn’t resort to costume changes or feel the need for backing dancers. Instead, she possessed a self-assuredness, that never came across as being arrogant. As well as her model looks, she has a voice so deep and rich it belies her years. Rolling Stone described it as “A husky croon reminiscent of Amy Winehouse.”
What she still lacks however is genuine stage presence and the confidence to switch things up with something unexpected. You know that the next show and the one after that were going to be almost identical to this one. That’s not to say she didn’t deliver precisely what her fans — mainly young girls — wanted. Indeed, it’s no coincidence that the subject of most of her songs are love and heartbreak.
When the on-screen graphics requested them to put their middle fingers in the air (for “all the fuckboys who have done you wrong”) they of course duly obliged and sang back the lyrics to her post break-up banger IDGAF with gusto. Blow Your Mind followed and once again showed that Dua is totally in tune with her audience.
She then slowed things down when two of the band left the stage and Ed Seed accompanied her on guitar for stripped back versions of Thinking About You and New Love, both of which show how comfortable she is whatever genren she’s singing.
Looking ahead, I think she’s going to surprise a lot of people. Not just how big she’ll become, but what kind of artist she’ll develop into. I’ve a feeling her music will continue to evolve and change much the way as Taylor Swift’s has and once she’s developed her stage craft, Dua Lipa could well go on to be an even bigger global megastar.
In many ways, she’s the perfect example of the modern pop star, having started posting covers on YouTube and doing collabs with lots of other artists. She clearly has no shortage of confidence about her music, opening the show with Hotter Than Hell, one of her biggest hits.
My personal favourite this time was Scared To Be Lonely, her collaboration with Dutch superstar DJ Martin Garrix ((real name Martijn Garritsen). It was a shame she didn’t take the opportunity to perform the piano and violin version (which showcases her emotive vocals so well — in fact, I think it’s her best vocal) and then move into one of the dance mixes of the song.
As it it made her the first female solo artist to reach the top spot since Adele’s Hello in 2015, it was no surprise she closed with her big break-up anthem New Rules. It will also be no surprise that the next she come to town she’ll be headlining the Brighton Centre.
Setlist: Hotter Than Hell | Dreams | No Lie | Lost In Your Light | Garden | Last Dance | IDGAF | Blow Your Mind | Thinking ‘Bout You | New Love | Genesis | No Goodbyes | Scared To Be Lonely | Begging || Homesick | Be The One | New Rules
“To me, shooting live music is all about capturing the personality of the performer and the emotion of their performance. And then creating an iconic image.”
Behind the image: All these images were shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the 75 1.8 lens using available light only, and the camera’s built-in digital zoom. I was only able to shoot the first three songs from the pit. The dark lighting and stage smoke made this tricky to get the portraits I wanted, as did the fact Dua hardly ever stood still for more than a second or two! Most of the time, she was bathed in either red or blue light. In addition to the unfavourable lighting, her dark eye makeup meant I couldn’t get any shots where her eyes weren’t in shadow. Shot in Brighton on 5 October 2017.
Dua Lipa’s self-titled album is out now on Warner Bros. Records (get the extended version!)
Follow Dua on Twitter at @DUALIPA
Follow me on Twitter