When it was announced in January that she would be doing her first residency show at Las Vegas’ Zappos Theater, Christina Aguilera told Billboard that she wanted to give the “audience a chance take off whatever mask they might have to wear in their regular lives.”
As Aguilera’s guard came down onstage during the debut weekend of The XPerience on Saturday (June 1), she delivered on that promise in a 90-minute-plus spectacle of sex positive vibes—glitter, glam, latex and girl power. And while most reserve the confetti for the end, the celebration and the shimmery stuff rained down throughout in the pop star’s authentic playful style where every song is a finale moment.
“What a beautiful night to have an amazing Xperience,” Aguilera said to launch night two.
The opening number “Your Body” had her blooming from a giant silvery lotus among dancing orbs in a white bodysuit, headpiece and thigh-high boots that crafted her image as galactic deity. This was followed by “Not Myself Tonight,” “Genie in a Bottle” — which was released 20 years ago this month — and her debut hit, 1998’s “Reflection” from Disney’s Mulan soundtrack, which she performed live for the first time since 2000.
“This song has always been such a gigantic part of my history and my life, going from Mickey Mouse Club to the Mulan soundtrack, that’s what really kicked it off,” she said. “This aligns with the message of tonight. We all wear a mask in some way — for our kids, for our jobs, for our families, for other people in general. When we go home, we get to take that mask off and look in the mirror and be who we really need to be at the end of a long day. Tonight I encourage you to take off your mask or put one on, feel free.”
Divided into six acts plus an encore, Aguilera rolls through all her hits while showing off her spectacular vocal range and never missing a note. She belts tracks such as “Ain’t No Other Man,” “What a Girl Wants,” “Dirrty,” “Fighter” and “Beautiful,” as well as hits from her most recent album Liberation like “Accelerate” (featuring Ty Dolla Sign and 2 Chainz). Each act is marked by its own colors, textures and even scents pumped throughout the venue at strategic moments, truly delivering on the promise to touch all the senses with an intensely theatrical experience.
The second act threw back to the X-Tina era with gold chaps, a throne and a giant neon X flooding the stage as she belted songs of emancipation “Dirrty” and “Lady Marmalade.” Slogans of empowerment “Girls Matter,” “Brave” and “Respect Resistance,” sayings like “I’m Not a Bitch I’m a Teller of Unfortunate Truths” and images from women’s marches around the world flashed during the rock ’n’ roll edged “Can’t Hold Us Down.” By that point, Aguilera had traded in metallic for a shiny long black trench and boots during act three. In act four, it was all cerulean choir robes and candles as dancers swung incense burners throughout the crowd.
No Aguilera show would be complete without tipping her boa to the divas that came before her. With an intro to Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” a clip from Cher’s legendary interview (in which she recounts telling her mom, “I am a rich man”) and Aguilera recalling a sink-or-swim moment leading into a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Love the Lord” from The Preacher’s Wife, odes to the incredible talents of women flourished throughout this point in the night.
“I had to audition for the Mulan soundtrack and also my record deal in the same week,” she told the audience. “I had to prove that I could hit a certain note. My A&R guy took me into his office, I was super intimidated, shaking like a leaf seeing all the artists already established and everything. And he says to me, ‘Sing for me.’ It was a sink-or-swim moment: ‘I want to prove you can sing for real.’ And I was like, ‘What do I sing? What do I do?’ and a cappella … I was super inspired by The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack and Whitney Houston, so that was a blessing to me in my life. I’ve never sung this in a concert before. [This was my] sink-or-swim moment and I swam. And here tonight, I’m so lucky to be having my own band and my beautiful background singers, I am so grateful and so appreciative we should never pass on a moment to say how grateful and appreciative we are in our lives.”
Act five was all about sex, with dancing mushrooms, lollipops, cherries and Aguilera in a long pink feather coat which she stripped to reveal a bra and panties set with strategically placed illuminated hearts while singing 2006’s “Candyman.” She later donned a strappy maroon sequined bodysuit for Pitbull’s “Feel this Moment.”
In honor of Pride month, act six was all love and rainbows as she closed out the show with “Fighter,” “Beautiful” and “Let There Be Love.”
With more dates throughout June and September, Aguilera joins current resident Gwen Stefani and soon-to-be resident Def Leppard in calling the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood home.