Live Report: Doja Cat – The O2 Arena, London

A star in all her glory...

For someone who has worked tooth and nail to be the artist she always wanted to be, it’s no wonder that once Doja Cat headlined a stadium tour, she was going to do it her way. 

After completing the North American leg of the Scarlet tour in Autumn last year to much acclaim, this London date marked almost the end of the European leg before festival dates kick off next month. 

It’s tough for an artist who has performed as many shows as she has, including a glorious headline set at Coachella, to surprise an audience who have seen the tour play out online and probably know the set list backwards. But Doja Cat is finally getting her flowers, and The O2 Arena was filled with florists. 

The stage was fairly minimal as stadium sets go, but visually impactful and clearly the realisation of Doja’s creative direction. With the furniture elements entirely covered in cream ‘hair’ (no doubt a nod to her shaven head) and band members wearing matching fringed outfits, it felt like a Willy Wonka-esque surrealist world. Backing singers doubled up as backing dancers, but in true Doja style, her 5 ft 5” frame (plus kitten heels) was holding the stage alone most of the night. 

Appearing in an oversized blazer, long brunette wig, glasses and a beige bodysuit, Doja opened right on time with ‘Skulls and Bones’ before moving straight into ‘ACKNOWLEDGE ME’ and ‘Shutcho’. It takes a few more tracks to get into some of the better known songs, like ‘Demons’ and a crowd favourite, ‘Tia Tamera’. With the generous use of pyrotechnics (mildly concerned at times about the fire/hair combination) and atmospheric lighting design, Doja’s opening act was raw, rap-centric and ripe with energy.

The second act featured big hits such as ‘Get Into It (Yuh)’, ‘Say So’ and ‘Need to Know’, but peppered with other album tracks that only true fans – or Doja herself – would want to hear. This was the theme of the night; ‘grateful that you’re here to see me but I’m performing whatever I want’. This meant no ‘Woman’ or ‘Kiss Me More’, and not even the career-changing hit, ‘Juicy’. This was the Scarlet tour and it was curated to the letter.

Towards the end of the night Doja softens, and we experience a beautiful rendition of ‘Agora Hills’ from a raised platform with flames below. The last two tracks, in this order, are ‘Paint the Town Red’ and ‘Wet Vagina’. This non-traditional reversal of her most successful album track as the penultimate instead of the final song, and with no encore, rounded off the Doja ‘this is my house’ attitude perfectly. 

One would be remiss not to mention her stamina. Doja is dancing throughout every track to some extent, and the 90 minute set included only one short break for an impressive guitar solo. However, this wasn’t even long enough for a costume change.

This all made for a consistently high energy performance, but lacked some crowd interaction. The only word she uttered into the mic was “London” in a British accent, and ran through the songs at pace. The effect was a professional and polished show but perhaps missed that touch of magic one may expect from an arena date.

This tour proved to the world that Doja is an artist in every sense. From her music, to her aesthetic, to her performances, she doesn’t hesitate to execute her very specific vision – and the real fans love her for it. The only wrinkle is that arenas aren’t just filled with hardcore fans, and some newbies just want the hits – but Doja made it clear this wasn’t her concern, and who can blame her?

Words: Nicola Davies
Photo Credit: Samir Hussein

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