I had honestly no idea what to expect from Alaska’s show, which I attended on February 23rd in Belfast’s Empire Music Hall. Having only really seen a taster of her performing live once before (during the Drag Ball in 2017), I went into ‘An Evening With Alaska’ with literally zero expectations of what it was going to be like: I really love going into a drag show basically dry of knowledge about what is to happen. It’s why I rarely watch any videos of a show before I see it for myself.
I’ve been on Amethyst’s Journey ever since Soph wrote about it here on Drag Adventures, but only through Spotify. Having not had a chance to check out the music videos yet, I didn’t recognise Jeremy at the merchandise stall until I picked up a copy of Amethyst’s Journey and told the friend I was with ‘I have to buy this right now, it is so beautiful and really moving.’ As I was taking out my money to pay, Jeremy smiled as he took it from me, and said, ‘I’m really glad you liked it…we worked really hard on it.’ We continued to talk about the music and about the show to come. He has to be one of the sweetest people I have ever met and definitely deserves more credit and recognition for his amazing work and musicianship! I wish I had gotten an photo with him and my album autographed by him.
If you say the phrase ‘A queen for the people’, Bob The Drag Queen is the first person who springs to mind. However, if you have ever seen Alaska Thunderf*ck 5000 live, then you will find a second queen for the people in this feisty alien from the Planet Glamtr0n. This surprised me. As someone who has, truth be told, only recently overcome a reasonably massive phobia of Alaska, I’d say that prior to this show, (even after meeting her at Dragworld last summer) I had thought of Alaska as a sheer force of fabulous far too terrifying to behold at close proximity. But I couldn’t have had a warmer and lovelier meet and greet with Alaska: she was extremely understanding when I told her the reason why I wanted an instant camera photo rather than a professional photo with the promoter (she even went as far as to make me feel like she was grateful that I had risked something in my personal family life to come to her show). She feels warm to be around and is conflictingly rather intimidating to look at: like a boa-constrictor who just wants to be hugged. She laughed heartily at the little gift I gave her and the little story I told along with it, and we ended our meet and greet with her promising that she wouldn’t tell my mother I had been to the show!
Latex and Leopard Print Umbrellas
I have an appreciation for queens who play smaller venues. I saw Trixie Mattel for the first time in a tiny comedy club in Manchester. The Empire is relatively comfortable in size, meaning that being near the stage was going to be a rather wonderful and personal experience from the outset. However, never could I have hoped in my wildest dreams to experience the show Alaska put on in Belfast on the faithful night.
Alaska is an icon performing live as much as she is on television. It is definitely easy to see why she won her series of Rupaul’s Drag Race: All Stars. I bet, when you think of Alaska, you think of an iconic moment off the top of your head that you would die to experience before your very eyes in real life? Whatever it is you recall; I probably saw it and many more moments that were so quintessentially Alaska! She jam-packed so much of her whole self that we know and love into that show, from ‘Hieeee’ and ‘Your makeup is terrible’ to ‘can I aaaaask you a question?’ and brand new material, a lot of which seemed improvised (and Alaska is a skilled improviser!).
The costumes, of course, reflected Alaska’s brand as an artist, but also were carefully matched to each sequence of activity during the show. From latex to lacy red bras, leopard print umbrellas to ru-veal outfits, Alaska’s costumes certain gave a feast for the eyes to us observing.
The loveliest thing about drag is that, a lot of the time, it breaks the forth wall. During her show, Alaska not only performed and interacted with the audience from the stage, but she also performed off the stage, in the audience. Like in Mean Girls, the limit did not exist! During a special performance of “My Heart Will Go On” (which Alaska sang especially as a treat for her Belfast audience owing to the connection of the Titanic with the Northern Ireland capital), Alaska came right into the crowd standing around the stage (which parted like the red sea in response) and interacted with individual members of the audience as she sang, moving as far back as the microphone would reach to see as many of her fans as she could. During this time, she touched my hand delicately (a magical moment for me!) and also practically serenaded my friend. Alaska ventured into the audience twice more over the course of the show, slithering her way through the crowd and each time interacting with different individuals. A queen for the people, indeed!
One of my personal favourite moments of the show was when Alaska and Jeremy performed one of my favourite songs from Amethyst’s Journey, “Aliens”. As the music video played behind them, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Alaska sang the song accompanied on piano by the amazing Jeremy (who now had whimsical, glittery makeup on, making his striking facial features even more prominent in the spotlight). Another special moment for me was the duet of Lady Gaga’s ‘Shallow’ from A Star In Born, between Alaska and close friend Lola, a queen hopeful for a spot on a future season of Rupaul’s Drag Race, again accompanied by Jeremy.
A gorgeously hilarious performance featuring Lola’s amazing vocals and Alaska’s impression of Bradley Cooper (a low, vocal fry parodying Cooper’s character), it was quite an affair to behold!
Judith Butler would need to write ten books to describe how phenomenally queer the energy in the room felt at any given moment of Alaska’s show. She’s weird and wonderful, and represents a drag artistry that isn’t all about being pretty and perfect: it’s dirty and nasty, cute and cuddly, tall and scary, feminine, masculine, androgynous and other-worldly all at once. Alaska is certainly a phenomenon I would highly recommend you see for yourself.
Written by Contributor Frilly