Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon review – a festive farewell to a glorious covers band | Music

Charlotte Church struts on to the stage, wearing a baseball cap and a silver fringe-trimmed dress, and growls: “I wanna fuck you like an animal.” The crowd howls: “Yaass!” The feral Nine Inch Nails cover has become a staple opener for Church’s Pop Dungeon – an event that, for the past six years, has filled sticky-floored venues and festival tents around the UK.

Described as “a genre-fluid jukebox of anthems”, Pop Dungeon sees the Welsh legend front what is essentially the world’s greatest covers band. “Think a pool party with Prince and Kate Bush at the grill, Beyoncé and Kurt Cobain on the bar,” Church explained recently. “Except it’s also Christmas, and both Santa and Kevin McCallister are here to get down.” She also announced that this latest run of dates would be the event’s last.

Kicking off last night at south London’s cathedral of camp, the Clapham Grand, and ending on 21 December in her home town of Cardiff, this festive farewell tour gives Pop Dungeon a send-off fit for a historic ship. The poster promises pigs in blankets and balloon drops. Church and her band take to the stage for an hour and a half and sweat through a set that goes everywhere from Black Sabbath to N.E.R.D. to Justice Vs Simian.

Church at Pop Dungeon.
Church at Pop Dungeon. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi/The Guardian

First and foremost, Pop Dungeon is a celebration of music. It’s a love letter to the power of a true banger, written by the Patron Saint of Good Time Girls – a woman Liam Gallagher once lauded as a fellow hellraiser with “a great voice” who “knows how to get hammered and freak people out”. The band and the backing singers each get their moment in the sun, shredding solos and taking it in turns to command centre stage, but Church is the beating heart of the performance, showcasing her curatorial skills and effortless range. She swings from an angelic rendition of the Home Alone soundtrack to a mashup of Jennifer Rush’s The Power of Love with Falling by Julee Cruise, before gliding up to the emotional high point of Purple Rain, like a blade over ice.

It’s a rowdy and emotional masterclass from a rare talent and a top-tier entertainer; Pavarotti, Miley Cyrus and Robbie Williams all rolled into one little rock star in sexy boots.

At Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, on 8 December. Then touring.

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