Review: Allie X at The Biltmore Cabaret

Review: Allie X at The Biltmore Cabaret

Is Allie X a persona, a personality, or a person? Judging alone from her appearance at Vancouver’ Biltmore Cabaret, it’s all three. She’s certainly become synonymous with her chosen ‘look’. Publicity photos paint her as a sour faced, withdrawn woman, and her album covers place her in a self-deprecating dunce cap. Her outsider energy has earned her legions of fans that look like Hot Topic is their mom and Panic! At The Disco is their dad. But, underneath the eyeliner and leather chokers, there’s something more genuine and real they’re connecting with: her talent and art.

Allie X’s music is, without beating around the bush, really fucking good. This woman knows how to construct a unique, well-structured pop song. After seeing her live, I can affirm she also knows how to put on a killer show, and has the pipes to back up her ethereal, dark oeuvre and elevate it into something more prominent in a live setting.

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

The Toronto-based synthpop star emerged into Vancouver’s Biltmore Cabaret for a short but sweet set that truly delivered. In just 13 songs, Allie X delivered one of the most cohesive and beautiful sets that venue has seen in years. The set list ping-ponged from catchy, upbeat bops like “Old Habits Die Hard” and the lovey-dovey “That’s So Us” to slower, more introspective numbers, like acoustic finale “Misbelieving”. Naturally, you couldn’t hear her voice soaring in all its glory on the latter thanks to the obnoxious crowd more focused on taking selfies and saying “Yasssss” louder than the performer herself, but I digress.

Despite the relatively small turnout, Allie X’s fans are quality over quantity. Fanboys scored the perimeter of the stage, held up signs during “Sanctuary” and, after the show, posed for signed polaroids with the singer herself at the merch booth. These are fans, though, that know every lyric, even on the deep cuts. Clearly this girl offers fans something they’re just not getting from other artists.

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

Donning circular sunglasses and black lipstick, Allie X looks like the mean goth classmate you had to share a lab table with in high school chemistry. But her dark appearance helps make her tunes unexpectedly fun. While you might guess her songs would sound like something out of a Lana Del Rey Spotify playlist, the music is a lot catchier and party-ready than what you’d anticipate.It’s not quite the bubblegum pop of Britney’s heyday, but this is modern top 40-ready, and Allie X is readying for her climb to the top of the charts if she keeps up the song quality the way she has.

One listen to a song like “Catch” is enough to build an instant fan. In a live setting, it’s enough to see we’re seeing the makings of the next big thing. Later, “Need You” combined heartfelt, beautiful lyrics, with stellar vocals and interesting beats. It’s proof that a song can sometimes be beautiful and meaningful while still having a catchy edge.

During a few songs, Allie plunks herself behind a neon-adorned keyboard, but most of the set she’s bouncing around the stage, jumping up and down in her platform heels, and interacting with her excited crowd. During “All The Rage”, she was dancing so hard that she admitted afterward, “I think I just peed my pants a little.”

There are some genuinely great jams here. “Paper Love”, with its interwoven whistle on the hook, brought the crowd together into a mass of dancing that made the intimate show so much more joyful. But the best moment may have been the stripped down, slow and cool “Downtown”, the one number that saw the singer remove her shades and lock eyes with the audience. It was definitely the most out of character moment of the evening, but that’s probably what made it so special.

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen