When I looked back on my pop culture highlights of 2019, I noticed a trend that I hadn’t expected but fully embraced: going to pop concerts.
At the beginning of the year I decided that budget allowing (and truthfully, some occasional press perk freebies) I was going to make the eff ort to see more pop shows in 2019. I’d frequently hand-wring about the cost of tickets or taking a night off work but realised that if I loved an artist’s music then an evening soaking up their show was an experience that would stick with me.
In previous editions of this column I’ve discussed the joy of seeing the Spice Girls open their comeback tour in Ireland in May and my experience seeing the opening night of Madonna’s Madame X tour in New York.
Both were surreal pop music experiences. One was unbridled pop nostalgia given a 2019 update while the other was pop’s biggest icon stretching her wings in a whole new kind of concert setting.
There was a night seeing Mariah Carey’s first ever Dublin show, wowed at being in the presence of one of music’s most formidable vocalists and songwriters. I saw Marina play an outdoor show in Central Park, realising her music had soundtracked a decade of my life.
That same trip I saw Lizzo play to a sold-out Radio City Music Hall. Sat waiting for the show to begin I took in the iconic venue and felt a rush of emotions. As a teenage pop nerd I would watch endless clips of the VMAs on MTV taking place in the same venue and I felt a rush of nostalgia. And Lizzo, delivered the kind of the show that had even those in the very back of the room on their feet.
Back home, a friend and I made a last minute splurge on Cher tickets, reasoning that her live show may not hit Dublin again. We ended up in the second row taking in the kind of glitzy show that only she could provide. And a full circle moment came when I went to Christina Aguilera’s show at 3Arena. In 2003 I had gone to her debut Dublin gig, my first ever concert as a teenager. Before Xtina took to the stage I reflected on all that had happened in the intervening 16 years. It underlined something I relearned in 2019 - that live music has the ability to make you feel like you’re living in the moment while also letting you feel the rush of memories. Those experiences informed my 2019. Here’s to a 2020 filled with even more.
Trixie Mattel is famous for her blend of comedy and music as one of drag’s biggest names but new documentary Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts goes deeper to find the pain nestling at the heart of the drag icon. From dealing with the fallout of her drag cohort Katya’s mental health struggles to opening up about her family issues, Moving Parts is a stirring and eye-opening documentary. This should do for drag movies what Madonna: Truth or Dare did for music documentaries.
Charity Shop Sue has been a cult favourite online for many years now, but a new online comedy series shows just how genius a character she really is. Set in a struggling charity shop in the north of England, the series mines a comedy vein calling to mind The Comeback and Nighty Night. The cast commit to the proceedings with such gusto that you can’t help but be sucked in by a series that easily stands up to its comedy counterparts on traditional TV.
Robyn Crawford’s relationship with the late Whitney Houston had always been the source of much speculation. In A Song For You she opens up about being by the side of a pop culture titan. Crawford is candid about her early relationship with Houston being a mix of both romance and friendship before the pair agree they’d need to be just friends lest they harm Houston’s burgeoning career. The resulting story is eye-opening and moving.