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Christina Aguilera’s powerful ‘XPerience’ has something to say

Christina Aguilera has that great big voice, and sister, she is not afraid to use it.

Aguilera unfurled “The XPerience” residency Saturday night at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood. A cast member of the “Mickey Mouse Club” as a kid, Aguilera now leads a rolling party movement that something to say. And, often, shout.

“Xperience” follows, and in many ways advances, the concept of a Vegas residency as a series of lavish production numbers. This isn’t a concert as much as it is a Disney blockbuster playing out in real time. Aguilera kicks out a series of acts seemingly unrelated, but all delivering a forceful message of individuality and empowerment.

“When we go home, we get to take that mask off and look in the mirror and be who we really need to be at the end of a long day,” she said from the stage. “Tonight I encourage you to take off your mask or put one on and feel free.”

That attitude was evident, powerfully, as a blazing red X appeared at the back of the stage along with LED-generated pyro for “Dirrty,” and “Lady Marmalade.” Images of women’s protests played in rotation with slogans “Respect Resistance,” and “Girls Matter.”

In a video clip, Aguilera clearly seizes the mantle from the ground-breaking superstars who came before, playing a now-famous comment by Cher in a 2016 interview with Jane Pauley, where the pop legend says, “My mom said to me, ‘You know, Sweetheart, you should settle down marry a rich man.’ I said, ‘Mom, I am a rich man.’” Her fans roared at that comment.

Clearly, Aguilera is speaking of female empowerment as a powerful female, but her production gets the attention of gentlemen, too. When she talks of being a young artist who had to audition for the “Mulan” soundtrack and her record deal just days apart, she carries the story with Disney-like suspense.

“I had to prove I could hit a certain note,” says the singer who hits all the notes. “My A&R guy took me to his office … I was shaking like a leaf.” And in a moment that reminds of the tension Christine faces in “Phantom of the Opera,” the exec said, ‘Sing for me. I want to prove you can sing for real.’”

Aguilera, in the middle of the X on the theater’s extended stage, then sang a cappella, delivering, Whitney Houston’s “I Love the Lord” from “The Preacher’s Wife,” for the first time in a live performance.

Elsewhere, Aguilera opened with “Your Body,” arriving in a shiny lotus in a tight-white bodysuit as silver orbs hung overhead. “Genie in a Bottle” and “Not Myself Tonight” set the stage for the highly produced show. She also returned to her first hit,”Reflection” from “Mulan.”

Aguilera was backed by a veritable fleet of artists, 14 dancers and a live band placed on a mid-level riser between two staircases onstage. Late in the show, she drew to the hallucinogenic “Candyman,” amid a splashy scene of mushrooms, cherries and lollipops. “Feel This Moment” by fellow Zappos Theater headliner Pitbull was at once a song and a demand.

Late in the performance, in one of the production’s many confetti-firing moments, Aguilera raced to the tape with “Fighter,” “Beautiful” and “Let There Be Love,” in honor of Pride month.

Aguilera is blessed in so many ways — her fellow singers speak in idolatry terms of her vocal prowess. But there is a work ethic and thought behind this residency that creates more than a show. Around here, we call it an experience, and so does she.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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