Perhaps it was early-career jitters. Allie X’s set at the Rickshaw Stop on Friday glided slickly, cleanly and efficiently — not unlike a well-oiled conveyor belt. From verse to bridge, Allie’s musical sensibilities were well developed and savvy, enveloping her songs with a catchy-as-sin, electro-pop sheen. She also carried her heart-stopping soprano voice through the tiny venue, especially on the set’s closer “Sanctuary,” a highlight off her debut EP, CollXtion I.
But therein lies the issue. Her nearly flawless performance left a gaping hole where Allie X’s identity should have been.
Allie X inched toward the stage for a packed house at the Stop, wearing plastic-rimmed sunglasses and an ornate lace getup that was equal parts Snow White and Barbie. She whispered a muted “hello, San Francisco” into the mic before launching into “Hello,” her actual introduction. Throughout her angular, robotic choreography, she pageant-waved and raised her arms in a rigid “X” formation, reinforcing her stage name, Allie X, and the song’s name, “Hello,” just in case the audience may have forgotten.
Maybe her stiff, Barbie shtick was meant to be a critique on the mass-market, homogeneous consumerism that plagues the music industry. Maybe it was meant to be a bold stylistic move that recalled Lady Gaga circa “Bad Romance.” Yet, more often than not, it was more “Barbie Girl” than Barbie-satirizing, and it was not nearly as enjoyable as Aqua’s one-hit wonder.
Without missing a beat, she launched into tune after tune from CollXtion and consistently maintained the awkward rigidity of her semi-dancing, semi-flailing routine. Each number was flawlessly performed, but her set lacked an identifiable persona that set her apart from any of the Top 40 divas.
Even the few instances in which she reached out to the crowd felt routine. For instance, one mega-fan at the front whipped out his iPhone and she squatted on the floor to pose with him, sunglasses and all. It lacked spontaneity — it was like perfunctory fan service, if nothing else.
Still, fans, new and old, were rapt with Allie X’s set — cheers of “yas, queen!” filled the air after each song. Lifers mouthed the words of CollXtion hits such as “Bitch” and “Catch” as if they were gospel and converted fans burst into ecstatic dance routines that gave Allie’s moves a run for their money.
In line with the dolled-up pastiche Allie X was serving up, witnessing her live set felt like playing with a fully unwrapped Barbie. Sure, it’s pristine and gorgeous, but was it actually a fun time?