“I’m your self-care guidance counselor,” Lizzo said after a raucous performance of her latest hit, “Phone,” last night in the Mainroom at First Avenue. After a series of concerts promoting her EP Coconut Oil across the United States and Canada, her homecoming in Minneapolis was a joyous affair as she reflected on her personal journey and, true to form, didn’t shy away from sharp commentary.
Solidarity with other female artists – in particular, women of color – was, as always, a prominent part of any Lizzo production. This time, in addition to featuring regular collaborator and former GRRRL PRTY bandmate DJ Sophia Eris, the show featured teenaged up-and-comer Dizzy Fae as an opener.
The recent graduate of the St. Paul Conservatory of Performing Arts got the audience going early with her lighter-than-air vocals, denser-than-lead bass, and moves honed for the city’s most storied danceteria. Dizzy Fae’s obvious excitement at performing in the Mainroom was refreshing
Later, Lizzo spoke of having appeared on that stage as “a backup singer and a backup-backup singer. I’ve played this stage in so many different ways,” she recalled. If it wasn’t already clear, it became obvious early in the night that those anonymous days are long gone for the onetime member of the Chalice, as she opened her evening with a brash, fearless performance of “Worship” replete with a neon tunic and a generous helping of strobe lights.
Later songs maintained and often surpassed that level of energy. Drawing the audience in to sing along on songs like “Phone” kept the crowd engaged and hungry for more, as if her sheer vocal power didn’t already. Some controlled substances making their way through the audience did their part to heighten the euphoria as well.
Yet Lizzo also struck a deeply earnest note with anthems emphasizing self-care and her personal experiences. Songs like “Humanize” and “In Love” speak of tender love both for oneself and others, and in her asides between numbers Lizzo spoke forthrightly about body image, sexuality, and confidence.
A quick break and costume change upped the ante even further, as her reentry to the stage in a leotard before the sexually-charged “’Scuse Me” was met with a deafening roar. That song was a highlight of the evening and showcased the stage presence that has made her such a force. When she sings, “I don’t need a crown to know that I’m a queen,” she’s right. Her fans have already coronated her.
Lizzo also made use of the fiery, inspirational political rhetoric that made her such an excellent fit as a musical guest this year on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. After “Coconut Oil,” she described her use of music as a tool for change. “Music is therapy. But music is also activism,” she pleaded, urging an audience of all ages to make their voices heard.
With that, she dove into the unifying anthem “My Skin.” Audience members lit the space as they waved their phones and lighters. Lizzo dedicated the number to rape victims. Rapidly moving through the evening from joyful to fiery to reverent, she scarcely missed a beat.
Her leap from “My Skin” into the upbeat finale and encore was seamless. On her hit “Good as Hell,” the festivities resumed and she was able to sneak a shot of tequila from a bottle handed to her by Eris, just as the song prescribes.
The encore was no less jubilant. A rainbow-lit performance of “Let ‘Em Say” was chosen for the “special Twin Cities crowd.” Afterwards, she outsourced her encore repertoire to the fans, openly soliciting suggestions. A repeat performance of “Phone” followed by a confetti-covered “Faded” closed out the evening.
Lizzo mentioned being met with adoring crowds in Chicago, Toronto, New York and other places. However, there was no denying that this performance was something special, as the multitalented songstress coaxed and cajoled the audience both with her own history and some personalized shout-outs, most notably to Prince and collaborator Caroline Smith. Lizzo said it best herself: “Nothing feels like home like First Avenue.”
She’s always welcome home, and she returns to the Mainroom tonight.
Batches and Cookies
Good as Hell
Let ‘Em Say
Writer Ibad Jafri studies International Relations and Cinema & Media Studies at Carleton College. He’s never spoken to Lizzo, but Caroline Smith once complimented him on his shirt. Photographer Emma Roden is a student at Normandale Community College.