CMAT performing in Brooklyn in 2022Collin Knopp-Schwyn / Wikipedia Commons

“I’m going to bring you into my boudoir,” self-described “global pop superstar” and “silly bitch” CMAT says, “and like any good girly sleepover, I’m going to tell you about a time when I was fucking crazy.”

“I’m going to tell you about a time when I was fucking crazy”

CMAT’s California or Bust tour, which I watched at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, brings her sophomore album Crazymad, for Me to the stage. In it, she delves into a past relationship and breaks it down with unflinching honesty. What follows is a set of glitzy country pop bangers, in turns angry, horny, self-effacing, and very funny — sometimes all at once.

She opens with ‘California’, which deconstructs the genre of the ‘sad girl’ confessional. What’s the psychological impact of commodifying your pain, of making a living by performing it for strangers night after night? CMAT wonders if it’s “torture”, but then turns the idea on its head: “don’t say I didn’t warn you”, she sings, a mission statement to both the audience and the ex who inspired the album. “I’m milking what I can from this grief.”

“What’s the psychological impact of commodifying your pain, of making a living by performing it for strangers night after night?”

She does this with boundless charisma and genuine enthusiasm. CMAT made headlines last year for fracturing her neck by headbanging too hard on stage, and it’s easy to see why: she throws herself around the stage with frantic energy, launching into the splits and carrying out slick, synchronised choreography with her keyboard player. She draws out the bridge of fan-favourite ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’, pausing between each line with a pout and a hair-flip, waiting for applause. The audience is all too eager to give it to her. She’s got us eating out of the palm of her hand, obeying her instructions to the letter: we wave goodbye to her ex, provide backing vocals, and the whole crowd gets moving in a slightly unsteady country two-step. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” CMAT asks us. The response is instant and riotous: “A COWBOY, BABY!”

And indeed, some of the show’s best moments come when CMAT takes us back to her country roots. When the instrumentation is stripped back to just CMAT twanging her guitar, it allows her arresting voice to soar. Her clever lyrics and deft storytelling lead us gently through ‘Such a Miranda’, a ballad about being in the shadow of a lover’s ex. The audience’s quiet accompaniment gives the song an almost hymnlike quality.

As the album title suggests, CMAT delves into the idea of being ‘crazymad’: an unpalatable, hysterical woman. ‘Vincent Kompany’ sees her leer at the audience with wild, rolling eyes, milking the lyric “I was crazy back then” for all that it’s worth. CMAT is openly queer, and sings with understated sincerity about her issues with body image. Her messy maximalism is part of her appeal – an unapologetic display of modern womanhood in all its facets, for better or for worse. This is also a subject that lends itself well to humour, and CMAT’s sharp wit is always present: who else would name-drop Becky Vardy in a song about infidelity? She’s mastered the rare art of undercutting moments of sincerity with humour without sliding into cynicism or self-loathing.


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This is especially evident at the end of the show, when CMAT brings a Palestinian flag on stage in a simple gesture of support. “I don’t think calling for a ceasefire should be controversial,” she explains. “And Free Palestine.” She then immediately struggles to find somewhere suitable to drape it. She searches the stage with flustered embarrassment, worried about being disrespectful. “For album three, I’ll have a flagpole onstage,” she finally says. “It’ll allow me to show solidarity and also double as a stripper pole.” Well, I for one hope I’m there to see it.