Review by Kirsti Salmi, Photo by Adrian Lysenko
In a moment of playful synergy between Sienna Diamonds and her adoring audience, Blood, Sweat and Heels showcases the inclusive beauty of drag culture for all in attendance. Brandishing a bedazzled mic, Diamonds trails her fingers seductively along the sweat-soaked atmosphere in the pit below while sync-belting out Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” It may be Diamonds’ job to entertain, but show-goers take it upon themselves to answer her girl power prowess with a show of their own, serenading one another and flinging dance-partners around the floor in a display of sheer joy and release.
Welcome to the supremely fabulous art of drag, where lip sync isn’t just for life – it’s life itself.
Ivan Love set the bar high in an immediately commanding first set. Mr. Gay Pride Thunder Bay’s body awareness would have made Adam Levine himself blush, exuding self-possessed confidence while slowly shedding layers and teasing buttons to Maroon 5’s “Maps.” Tossing lush tresses and oozing sultry jazz singer charm, Lily Tremayne followed with a gangster burlesque set. The former Queen of the North brought the best of lounge with playful beebop and scat, tilting her fedora alluringly at a hollering crowd lapping it up with appreciative whistles.
Making his debut, Mr. Richard Hunter brought aggro vibe to the stage that got the pit bouncing. Channeling metal-heavy moves, Hunter swaggered and stomped to Drowning Pool’s “Bodies.” Diamonds saw Hunter’s set and raised him an anthemic girl pop answer with favourites by Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry. Afterward, audience members were invited to lip sync battle for their lives (and not f*ck it up!) to Shania Twain, Footloose, Bif Naked and Cher tunes.
Watching a drag artist perfect and unleash his/her craft upon an audience is to witness one truly sentient. Drag stage becomes a space where otherness collapses – concepts of ‘male’ and ‘female’ are fluid here, explored and felt without limit. Reveling in their symbiosis, the artists come into their own and radiate absolute power from every last undulation and expression. They bleed every last ounce of brilliance for their audience we applaud them, for it brings us alive too.