Dorian Electra @New Century Hall (Manchester): Review

My first show of 2024 was going to be one to remember – I thought to myself as the gut-punching beat of electro dance hit louder with each step that I took up to the venue floor. And for my first Dorian Electra show, I knew they weren’t going to disappoint.

Following an autotune and vodka-drenched opening act (vodka-drenched in the literal use of the phrase, the support doused himself with a full bottle), Dorian-electro-hyper-Eurobeat-industrial-queer-pop-Electra appeared in a cloud of smoke with to operatic climax, blonde hair spiked and regal red outfit donned, exploding into motion. I felt like I was about to witness an anime boss fight.

Two backing dancers appeared and paraded around the stage, spinning and waving flags. A giant puppet with two uncanny happy/sad drama masks like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland or Fantasia chased them around the stage making lewd gestures, punctuating the song with an ass-grab, because of course it did. Then two headsmen wearing bags over their faces and black tuxedos mimed chopping off the anime villain’s head.

In my notes, I simply have written: “Slutty pantomime?”

“There’s so many beautiful queer people here tonight,” says Dorian Electra, surprisingly not breathless.

The US anti-pop artist is, for many, the face of queer music. They combine many elements from the sound to the performance and the outfits to fuel a career that includes music that could be straight from a Lady Gaga record (they did a remix of Replay) if it combined every aspect of that sound and turned it up to 11. It’s quite hard to sum up their career due to their experimental sound, stellar production, and non-serious attitude which hallmarks their approach to crazy composition. This creativity is expressed perfectly in their live show, which I found myself more than impressed with.

Emotional or ironic verses (sometimes it is hard to distinguish) meet huge choruses that wouldn’t sound out of place at a Bring Me the Horizon show. Dorian Electra is like if you took every queer trope you could think of and blended it into a glorious, techno dance smoothie. Yum.

One of my favourite parts of the show was when a one track built up, and up, and up, ready for a blast of techno energy, only for Dorian Electra and their dance entourage to stand stock-still while the rave powered on behind them. At every turn, they satirised something that made me laugh with surprise and shake my head.

“Give yourselves a pat on the back for going outside today. Give yourselves a pat on the back for touching some concrete … I mean grass.”

Despite the humour and the flamboyant dress and the whiplashing between Eurobeat and opera and guitar solos, there was something deeply dystopian and weird about Dorian Electra’s production. As the stage clears and applause and shouts pitch high, the lights dim to green – New Century Hall’s gorgeous ceiling-light setup complimented this perfectly – and an unsatisfying small canvas obtusely depicting decapitated foliage rolled out, ready for the next phase of the set. There is much potential for messaging within the show – anti-imperialism? Anti-urbanisation? Or is the whole point just bombasticity and laughs? Am I simply deeping it?

Dorian Electra is an enigma wrapped in the chaos of genre-mashing, and this is conveyed perfectly in their performative show, over-the-top charisma and flashy outfits.

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Photos: Eliza Waite
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About Tom Farley-Hills

Writer, journalist and musician - I create professional content by day and enjoy music by night. I don't restrict myself based on genre and approach every track with a fresh eye. I like to cover relevant issues and music that pushes the boat out. Artists of all shapes and sizes welcome!
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