Pulsing with a fevered heat and dripping with sweat I emerged from Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon exhausted but invigorated. It was an orgy where every partner is a song you know and like, even love. Your mouth formed the words of their name as they penetrated you. Sometimes they’re beautiful, sometimes soft and gentle, other times hard and rough. You can feel slick warm bodies pressed against you, flesh against flesh, the crowd merges with the music and we sing its words back to them.
Having no idea what to expect from said titled “pop dungeon” I was genuinely surprised to see a band take the stage as I had (falsely) assumed this was a Charlotte Church DJ set. Not sure where I got that idea from. I was therefore completely shocked when Church and her band opened their set with Closer by Nine Inch Nails. Endorphins flooded through me as my excited brain recognised it well before the “I wanna f**k you like an animal” chorus. Considering I have seen Nine Inch Nails perform Closer back in their heyday I’m surprised to find myself telling you that Charlotte Church has now delivered the definitive version. Next up was Prince’s Get Off, then Missy Elliot’s Get Ur Freak On, then Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka and then Overload by the Sugababes. That was just the first fifteen minutes. We don’t get the full song but just the best parts with no gaps in between, all woven together into a glorious medley. The first half an hour is so up tempo, well thought out, and so energetically performed, it made me retrospectively downgrade the rating of every single gig I’ve ever been too in my life. Midway through I had a moment where I just timed out and thought “this is the greatest thing I have been to since I can remember going to things”.
There is so much love for the music being performed here and because it’s done so well this never becomes a “hey, remember this song” cheesy cash grab. Everyone in the audience recognises the majority of what was played – although I’d question why you were at an event called pop dungeon if you didn’t. A personal icing on the cake moment that forced me to delve into my memory vaults to recognise it was where they snuck in Aneurysm, a Smells Like Teen Spirit b-side (that also appears on Incesticide) by Nirvana. While not exactly one many people recognised it hinted at the depth of musical tastes within the band and only took up a minute or so.
Church’s voice is still unbelievable strong and not wanting to hog all the limelight (or perhaps to take a bit of a rest!) she often swaps places with one of the extremely talented backing singers to allow them to take lead vocals. After a laid back start to the second half an hour we explode into Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name before – incredulously – morphing it into Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious. Elsewhere Robyn’s With Every Heart Beat, War (What Is It Good For), and Snap’s Rhythm Is A Dancer all make an appearance along with many, many others. Another highlight was their ferociously uplifting full length version of Surfjan Steven’s Chicago close to the end. I’ve namechecked a lot of artists but that’s just scraping the surface as this was an hour and a half of flawlessly executed entertainment.
Look. This was pure joy. A sidestep from the frequent downbeat and downtrodden misery of real life, a glowing light that oozed through the cracks of my cynical outer shell and charged my spirit with the kind of positivity most of our culture seems to be missing at the moment.