A shift of magnificent and magical proportions happened as Poppy took the stage last night (February 4) at The Paradise Rock Club.
Bearing a powder blue D’Angelico guitar in her delicate hands, a little fretwork on her part crushed the superficial bedrock of her entire career.
The gimmick is over.
Poppy is real.
And she can rip on guitar — kinda.
Playing along with her newfound live band to “Am I A Girl?”, the Poppy of of yesteryear — a pop puppet undulating to and fro onstage to calculated choreography — officially dissipated. This is not the extensively premeditated performance that everyone’s favorite IRL computer glitch offered up in November 2017 at The Sinclair, post-Poppy.Computer. This is a bona fide concert experience — that, coincidentally, happens to still include offering a Kool-Aid-esque “Poppy beverage” to fans brave enough to accept the blood-red brew.
The opening number solidified a paradigm shift in the Poppy universe that had been snowballing since the birth of her sophomore album in October. Still steeped her usual AI and technology motifs, Am I A Girl?, branched out from satire to social commentary, tackling gender identity on the title track. Paired with her burgeoning public image, flames fanned by interviews and magazine spreads, Poppy has finally stepped out of her private interweb and into the public realm. Originally more of an eerie, conspiracy-theory laden YouTube phenomenon, the Poppy of 2019 has nearly grown too popular to maintain her mythos.
Her distribute-as-little-info-as-possible approach of 2016-2017 thrived via her mildly upsetting YouTube videos, essentially the only place where Poppy existed online, outside of the slew of other YouTubers dissecting her every breath. But with a growing fanbase prostrating at her heels, she’s partially leaked out of the depths of the Internet, if only enough to ground herself as a musician who can nail a cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries.
It’s why Poppy’s show last night in Boston undoubtably exceeds the musicianship of her performance in Cambridge from November 2017.
Her musical glow-up has planted her so deeply in our reality that the change is almost un-real. Rather than operating with backup dancers inches away, not uttering a word out of place, and upholding all those mind-control victim conspiracies, the Poppy of 2019 is spinning, free-falling in a white corset to the din of her new heavy metal(ish) songs (“X,” “Play Destroy”). She’s reaching out beyond the barricade, accepting fan-made signs brandished with the phrase “Everybody Dies,” a cheeky reference to her “Beach Blonde Baby” video. She’s dissuading kids from a proper education, demurely explaining “I don’t like school. You don’t need it” in her wisp of a voice before plunging into a cover of “Another Brick in the Wall” with her live band. She’s either breaking character or expanding her character into our dimension, but whether it’s the former or latter doesn’t matter.
Her weirdness still pulsates in the background, no longer a forced element of the spectacle, but a facet of the performance that was willed into existence via years of Illuminati symbolism nonetheless. She doesn’t need to name-drop her cult because her cult is dressed in white robes, lining the barricade, quite literally preaching her gospel on her behalf.
Awash in their praise, she’s still, at her creepy core, an entity of the Internet: An urban-legend-like being beyond the periphery of most people. Her newfound presence onstage is monumental, but finite. After this month of touring, she will retreat back to her cozy corner of the dark web, reciting her quasi-satanic new tune “Voicemail,” eyes blackened, glitter and grease fully donned.
And when the world needs another glimpse at salvation through kawaii death pop, Poppy will be there, reaching out… beckoning.