2019 American Music Awards

Sasha Velour Breaks Down Three Performances From Her 'Smoke & Mirrors' Tour

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Jeff Eason
Sasha Velour performs "Come Rain or Come Shine" during her Smoke & Mirrors Tour.

Ever since we met her on season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race, Sasha Velour has shown us repeatedly her penchant for exuberant performances. Whether it was during her iconic rose petal lip sync in the season finale or in the excellent performances for her Nightgowns drag showcase in New York, Velour excels when given the opportunity to deliver high-concept, deeply personal performances. 

Starting next week, fans will get the opportunity to see Velour's work up close and personal, as the star sets out on her new North American tour of Smoke & Mirrors, the star's first-ever completely solo show that sees her taking her performance art to the next level. With 13 original lip sync numbers (all choreographed, produced and directed by Velour herself), including songs from the likes of Sia, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston, the tour promises to have fans gagging over the Drag Race winner's stagecraft.

Below, Velour breaks down three of her favorite numbers that will appear on the Smoke & Mirrors tour, taking fans through her creative process, the execution of her stunning performances and the meaning behind a few of her favorite songs:

Annie Lennox, "Precious"

I started performing “Precious” on the live tour following RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9. At the time, I couldn’t stop listening to Annie Lennox’s Diva album, and her song “Precious,” which she wrote for her daughter, kept getting stuck in my head. Devotional to a point of camp, the lyrics praise an angel who has transformed the singer’s life. In my version, it is the singer who’s an “angel," and the transformation she undergoes in the name of being “found” is distinctly more demonic. I’ve seen how seemingly divine forces like status and attention can both save and corrupt a person. For Smoke & Mirrors, I added in Annie’s one-minute intro to the song, with a video of the angel descending from the ceiling. In order to get the visual just right we rented and filmed a curtain specially for this, staging the lighting and smoke effects in real time to the track. 

Judy Garland, “Come Rain or Come Shine”

“Come Rain or Come Shine” was composed in the '40s by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. This version by Judy Garland was recorded in 1956, when she was 34. I had a hard time choosing between this and her iconic live recording from Carnegie Hall in 1961, but I think this one is more optimistic. My original concept for the number was for the entire theater to topple and burn down while I kept singing -- there’s a dark optimism to that! I eventually decided to simplify, but I think the original vibe is still there. The black and white video with choreographed drops and splashes was animated by Geo Barnett. One of the most beautiful parts of the music is the way the instrumentation creates the sounds of rain and thunder, my intention with the video was to translate that same spirit into simple projection effects! 

Shirley Bassey, “If You Go Away”

I first performed “If You Go Away” in February 2015. I had spent several weeks at home with my mom during an increase in her cancer treatments. I wasn’t sleeping very well, so instead of resting, I came up with a drag number, and decided to create over 30 original illustrations for it. It unfolds to the tune of Shirley Bassey performing the classic French import “Ne Me Quitte Pas”. The protagonist of my number is a bald vampire -- a force of incredible power and kindness, but also a bit unpredictable; chaotic. The women in my family are like that. I shaved my head for the first time for this performance. Although I’ve since changed many details, this was the first and last number that my mother really saw me perform. She even helped me sew the red dress I wore for the debut. After she died, I stopped performing it altogether. This is a reimagining, that tells a slightly different story. As my mother herself would say, there’s always room for a little edit! 


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