King Princess Rebel, Toronto ON, October 28
Published Oct 29, 2019King Princess's success story is a modern fairytale. It's not just her namesake that gives off the impression — last year's breakthrough single "1950", which captured the attention of former One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles, catapulted her to the top of the indie-pop landscape. Signed to Mark Ronson's Zelig Records, she sings about gay heartbreak and romance with fervour, making her one of today's most beloved queer pop icons.
It makes sense, then, that the stage set-up for her 2019 "Cheap Queen Tour" was made to look like a queer fairytale of sorts. An enchanting forest painting was surrounded by a golden frame. Two hands, fingers dripping blood, gripped a vanity at the centre, with "Cheap Queen" monogrammed on the front. A drag queen in a pink costume gown kept the theatrics and energy high in the pre-show, introducing another drag queen, Tynomi Banks, who gave delighted fans a 15-minute lip-sync. The host dramatically pretended to sweep the floor afterwards; it was a provocative Cinderella recreation. Audiences at King Princess's Toronto show knew they were in for a treat.
Fresh off the heels of her debut album Cheap Queen, Mikaela Straus took to the stage at Rebel in Toronto with flamboyance and grace for the first on a run of North American tour dates. Surrounded by a four-piece band dressed in matching crisp white outfits, she opened the show with a dizzying snippet of "Isabel's Moment," a Tobias Jesso Jr.-assisted track from the new album. It wasn't long before cheers erupted, as she transitioned into the Cheap Queen album opener "Tough on Myself." She sashayed and thrashed around in a flashy outfit (shiny red tank, glittery jeans, and for the first part of the show, a golden "diaper") and kept the mood high, even when performing slower tracks from the new album.
It is noteworthy that, despite Cheap Queen coming out only three days prior to the first tour date and the show being on a Monday night, excited fans sang along to most of the songs word for word. "Do you like the album or no?" she posed to the crowd. After the anticipated screams of adoration, she laughed, "Because I think it's f*cking good."
Straus knows how to work a crowd, and more than that, she knows her crowd. "Y'all bitches know this one," she acknowledged while introducing crowd favourite "Talia." When preparing to sing the undeniably queer pop track "Pussy Is God" she bluntly told her tech crew to "give us pussy," prompting pulsing purple lights and a voice track repeating "pussy" through the speakers. Fans ate it up.
Stoner antics and banter aside, Straus really proved her power and status as a performer to be reckoned with. She moved seamlessly between a piano and guitar, with solos that demonstrated her musicality and punk rock sensibilities. She ended the show thanking everyone for coming and throwing her guitar down on the ground. She strutted offstage, but it felt anything but cliché. It felt brand new.