Skip to main content

Home Music Music Live Reviews

Tate McRae live in London: Canadian pop star proves that arenas are the next step

A show that hints at the golden age of pop performance, you sense that arenas await for Tate McRae.

4.0 rating

By Ben Jolley

Tate McRae (Picture: Beth Saravo)

Having amassed two billions-streaming viral hits in the past four years, Tate McRae has become one of the biggest names in pop music.

Fresh from performing at the BRIT Awards in March, last night saw her return to London for the first of two sold-out nights in the capital.

And, on the strength of the first at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, her place atop the throne – including being the second most streamed artist under the age of 21 – is well-earned. 

After some suspense-building drums, strobes and photo-shoot-style video footage, the 20-year-old appears out of nowhere between two cage-like TV cubes within which her guitarist and drummer are concealed. 

It’s an early indicator of a show that, full of innovative and well thought-out staging (including a vintage camera lens moment) hints at the golden age of pop performance.

Tate McRae (Picture: Beth Saravo)

Dressed in a sports bra, matching hot pants and flanked by four dancers in sweatpants, the choreography – full of seductive routines and hair-swishing – calls to mind noughties pop icons like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. 

There’s barely any let up throughout the hit-filled hour-long set, during which McRae really gives it her all, with the audience singing back every word of every song. 

With the set roughly split into four acts, her dancers regularly depart the stage and leave McRae to command the large space; she makes light work of the job at hand. 

And, while the screams from her adoring 5,300 fans are undoubtedly deafening, McRae is far from drowned out as she showcases her breathy yet acrobatic vocal range via some impressive ad-libs – especially during an acoustic-guitar-led section during which she sits perched atop one of the cubes. 

For the gut punch drums of ‘messier’, she returns to centre stage and in front of a mic stand, gradually followed by her dancers, whom she leans on and huddles into, as if they are her post-break-up support network.

The anthemic ‘cut my hair’ ups the ante as one of McRae’s dancers follows her across the stage with a handheld video recorder. Naturally, she owns the close up, working the stage effortlessly, before the camcorder is turned on the audience shakily and then shown on screen – another clever way of involving the crowd.

While her guitarist is given a brief yet thrilling solo, ropes are stretched out to attach the two cubes, ready for McRae to step through and lean back on as if she’s in the boxing ring from Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty’ music video.

The first viral hit of the night, ‘exes’, practically erupts and comes with a dance break to boot; as if that wasn’t enough, McRae ends the energetic track by doing the splits. 

Slowing down the pace to recall her “dream come true” performance on SNL last year, the gear shift of ‘grave’ is preceded by an anecdote about an old relationship.

“You know what, I think the girls are gonna relate to this next one,” she teases with a knowing wink, before proclaiming what she hates most  – “a fake fucking bitch!” 

It’s a great precursor to ‘we’re not alike’ and the pop-punk-lite ‘she’s all I wanna be’, two McRae tracks that have more in common with Olivia Rodrigo.

Her vulnerable side is then displayed once again, with her 2020 TikTok smash ‘you broke me first’ seamlessly melding into recent album favourite ‘run for the hills’; for the latter she clings on to a giant fan while visuals of the sea zoom past. 

By the end of hypnotic set closer ‘greedy’, her 2023 viral hit, it’s clear that Tate McRae is a pop star who really can do it all. 

Having elevated her way up the capital’s venues – from an intimate debut at the Camden Assembly in 2016, aged 16, to Kentish Town Forum around her debut album in 2022 – it’s easy to imagine McRae taking on arenas next time she’s in the UK.