Christina Aguilera: Live in Concert, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, November 25th 2023 – Live Review

15 years ago, I was lucky enough to see Christina Aguilera live at her only Melbourne show on her Back to Basics Tour. Although initially billed to do three shows in Melbourne, Christina ended up only doing one as she was unwell. She later discovered that this was due to her being pregnant with her first child. Cut to 15 years later and Christina Aguilera has finally made a triumphant return to Melbourne for a one-off exclusive show.

For some, this exclusive gig was the opportunity to see an artist they’ve loved for years for the very first time. For others, this special Melbourne show was a redemption arc to finally see Christina Aguilera live after having their shows cancelled years ago. And for those like me that had seen her before, it was a blessed reunion with this iconic powerhouse again after 15 years.

Staged at Flemington Racecourse, the outdoor event felt like an outdoor music festival, just a music festival dedicated to the one person. I arrived around 3pm for early entry at 4pm and found it puzzling that there weren’t as many people waiting to enter the venue as I expected. I later realised that there were several entry gates and I was merely entering through one of them.

Unfortunately, my gate was the furthest from the stage, yet somehow after walking as fast as my legs could carry me towards it, and from having access to the Candyman Circle section, I ended up getting a spot on the barrier. Could I really be seeing Christina Aguilera again live? At this point, it didn’t feel real yet.

With a vast age demographic of attendees, it was evident that Christina Aguilera’s music transcends generations. Some fans even took the time to cosplay in their favourite Christina Aguilera music video outfits, many inspired by Christina Aguilera’s ‘Stripped’ and ‘Back to Basics’ eras, including a girl who looked straight out of Christina’s ‘Candyman’ video.

It was frustrating that the food, merchandise booth, and the bathroom facilities were so far from the stage. The bars were located on either side of the venue, which was fine, but it wasn’t great that everything else was so far away. It was a hike getting to and from everywhere, to the point that after venturing out once, I felt was not worth it to move anywhere else after I got back to my spot. Keep in mind, certain VIP tiers had their own exclusive bar lounge, bathrooms, a photobooth, and even a viewing platform much closer to the stage. The top tier VIP ticket holders even got a tour gift, although I wouldn’t be able to tell you what that tour gift was as I don’t know.

Forecast to rain, I came prepared. This event was not my first outdoor live music experience. Through both support acts from the Australian super talents of Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Jessica Mauboy, it didn’t rain. The two during their individual sets showed off their vocal skill and I loved that Untitled Group billed great voices to support Christina Aguilera’s special concert. The sun eventually ducked behind clouds however, and the breeze that dashed through the crowd felt colder and colder as the sky darkened.

While there were plenty of food choices on the grounds at the venue, I didn’t want to leave my spot before the main event. In between sets, I took advantage of my downtime to eat a pineapple pizza from Baker’s Delight that I had prepared and packed earlier. This had the camera man in front of me chuckling. Impressed with my organisation he stated to me, “Well you gotta do what you gotta do!”. After downing my feed, I waited along with the patient Melbourne audience for Christina Aguilera to arrive. Then, just before her set, it started to rain.

The rain’s touch ignited groans from the crowd. Those that were smart, quickly conjured ponchos out of thin air to protect themselves from the downpour. Those without simply stood resilient and hoped for the rain to stop. The rain was on and off for the rest of the night and I found myself thankful to the Ikea gods for my massive and epic black poncho, complete with a front pocket where I could conveniently place my phone, ready to film and take photos of the American songstress the moment she hit the stage.

Regardless of whether you had a poncho or not though, the Melbourne audience collectively braved the rain to see their favourite vocal queen. Unfortunately, security had let people bring umbrellas in which ended up obstructing some patron’s views. Due to my patience and arriving early, I was lucky to have an unobstructed view although I can’t say the same for others. When the American singer finally took to the stage, the audience erupted with as much relief as they did with glee.

Dressed in red and black with platinum blonde hair up in a ponytail and stylish sunglasses on, Christina Aguilera performed snippets from her 2002 album ‘Stripped’ before jumping into the sexy ‘Dirrty’ and the empowering ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’. Christina Aguilera’s set was filled with the best dancers that money could buy and a super talented band with great backup singers to boot. There was even a healthy mix of pyrotechnics, streamers, and confetti, conveniently timed to be released at the peak of each song.

Costume wise, although Christina generally wore the same outfit, a long-sleeved red top with a black leather skirt and black knee high boots, she creatively made her attire look different throughout the night by donning a number of different jackets. My favourite jacket of the night was this huge shiny metallic silver looking one that shimmered green with the right intimate lighting. To suit, this jacket was fittingly worn during Christina’s underrated song ‘Vanity’, where her dancers surrounded her with circular mirrors while she sassily and unapologetically sung about loving herself. It was cheeky, smart, sexually positive, but also the best kind of funny.

When Christina wasn’t singing, she was affectionately addressing the Melbourne crowd, appearing genuinely grateful to have returned, even acknowledging that the last time she was here was when she discovered she was pregnant with her son. Happily sharing she brought her daughter to see Australia with her this time, every moment when Christina addressed the audience to tell little stories of reflection or positivity were very sweet.

What I love about Christina Aguilera is that she’s always been ahead of her time. 21 years ago, Christina released her album ‘Stripped’ where she openly sung about important topics that come so naturally to us in conversation today (although, we still have a long way to go) including feminism, equality, sexuality, identity, self-love, and mental health.

While Christina Aguilera’s tunes ‘What a Girl Wants’, ‘Genie in a Bottle’, and even Pitbull collaboration ‘Feel This Moment’ are flirty and fun party tunes, there are so many dimensions to Christina Aguilera’s music. ‘Candyman’ is a catchy and clever nod to the past, ‘Santo’ powerfully allows Christina to dynamically embrace her Latin roots, and ‘Ain’t No Other Man’ helps showcase Christina’s vocal strengths while incorporating elements and her love for soul, blues, and jazz music.

However, it’s her songs that are deeply inspiring and lyrically thought-provoking that are the true anthems of Christina Aguilera’s repertoire. These songs included the literal beautiful ballad ‘Beautiful’ and the fierce banger ‘Fighter’. ‘Beautiful’ surprising had me emotional and teary, something I did not expect since it’s been so long between dance cards. ‘Fighter’ on the other hand had me feeling empowered, inspired, and passionately fist pumping my left arm into air.

It was difficult singing along to Christina Aguilera for the most part, simply because she’s so vocally impressive that her adlibs had you jaw-dropping in quiet awe rather than singing along. But there was nothing wrong with this. If anything, I appreciated kicking back to hear Christina do what she does best – sing.

It’s no secret that Christina Aguilera has so many more wonderful songs under her belt that didn’t make it onto setlist that night, but for the songs that did, they were all well-received and relished by the loving, supportive, and super patient Melbourne crowd. Despite not having visited Australia for a decade and a half, Christina Aguilera was well worth the wait. It was even more satisfying to hear Christina share that she’s been working on new music that’s coming very soon. Hopefully it’s new music and a revisit, not just new music.

Christina Aguilera’s set was very satisfying yet, at the same time, I wanted more. Tired, hungry, but no longer drenched from standing in the rain for hours, I was so grateful that the food stalls and seating area were still available and open at the venue after the music had concluded. Many patrons, as well as I, flocked to the food stalls after the show for some sustenance. I managed to grab some food, a drink, and a table so that I could sit, relax, rest my feet, and eat with my friends for a while we reflected on what we just saw.

We had plenty of time to devour our late-night meals and chat about the event before we were kindly asked to leave when the venue was closing up shop. I’m actually really grateful that the food stalls remained open at Flemington Racecourse as I’m always starving after a music gig, so I am thankful that these facilities stayed open a little longer to allow attendees the opportunity to reenergise before leaving.

Overall, I would 100% brave the rain for Christina Aguilera again. It was an iconic and memorable night that many won’t be forgetting any time soon. I also thought it was adorable how Christina shared the Melbourne stage with her young daughter during the encore final bows, showing to all that this performance and revisit to Australia with her family meant a great deal to her. And while I would brave the rain for Christina Aguilera again, hopefully next time I won’t have to nor will it take another 15 years.

Presented by ALWAYS LIVE and Untitled Group, Christina Aguilera performed her one-off Australian show in Melbourne at Flemington Racecourse on Saturday the 25th of November, 2023.
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Photography by Grant Alexander.

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