One of Beyoncé’s biggest fans had her own homecoming last night.
Lizzo, aka the former queen of Minneapolis hip-hop, returned to the Twin Cities for her first local headlining show in about two years. Like the rest of the shows on the Cuz I Love You tour, this Palace Theatre date sold out minutes after tickets went on sale. Those who made it in screamed and sang their hearts out, as this Palace staffer reports:
— Zak (@raszak76) May 6, 2019
Throughout Lizzo’s set, she and her dancers — Grace, Courtney, Levi, and Shirlene, aka the Big Grrrls — seemed to have a blast. They twerked and jiggled, performing choreography by experienced creative director Jemel McWilliams. During “Water Me,” two of the Big Grrrls zoomed around on roller skates. For Missy Elliot collab “Tempo,” several crowd members burst out from backstage to show off their own moves.
Lizzo has always had a big personality, and she happily hams it up on tour. During “Truth Hurts,” she entered stage left wearing a wedding veil and sunglasses. The crowd sang along and screamed as the Big Grrrls/faux-bridesmaids tossed their bouquets into the audience.
Lizzo has beefed up her vocal endurance in the last few years. As the story goes, she could always sing. But since she started working with pop producer Ricky Reed in 2016, he has encouraged her to, as she put it in an interview, “sang.” Her vocal control is better than ever, as evident throughout her flawless performance of ballad “Cuz I Love You.”
As one must when visiting Minnesota, Lizzo shouted out Prince, her onetime collaborator. “I didn’t realize it,” she said before performing “Cry Baby,” “but I made a Prince-ass song on this album.”
Prince wasn’t the only artist Lizzo referenced. During “Worship,” she sang the lyric, “Down on your knees” and tacked on a Beyoncé-style “boy.” Next up was a snippet of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” Before “En Love,” she led a sing-along of T-Pain’s “Buy U A Drank.” In the middle of the set, Lizzo caught a breather while the Big Grrrls danced to her Big Freedia collaboration “Karaoke.”
Now more than ever, Lizzo preaches self-love, an empowering, emotionally exhausting gospel. In 2015, she released divine odes-to-self “My Skin” and “En Love” — “just to see what motherf***ers would say,” as she explained at the Palace. “Five years later, the whole world is singing about self-love,” she continued, pointing out how “self-care” can be exploited by corporations, brands, and influencers.
On Cuz I Love You, at least half of the 11 tracks are full-bore empowerment anthems. Several have been licensed in movies or advertisements. A few recycle clichés from her earlier work (“Mirror, mirror on the wall” is used in “Scuse Me” and “Juice”; “I don’t need a crown to know that I’m a queen” from “Scuse Me” matches the “Soulmate” line “I know I’m a queen but I don’t need no crown”).
I love Lizzo and have for a long time, but I hope her stardom has more endurance than the self-love trend. She’s a multi-talented artist who has chosen popular appeal over her more experimental old music (“En Love” was the only pre-Ricky Reed song she performed at the Palace). As she and her team continue to figure out her brand, I hope the zeitgeist continues to find her rather than the other way around.
Opener Tayla Parx performed a totally safe, fun set before her Atlantic Records labelmate. Surrounded by cactus inflatables, Parx employed vocal smoothing, a perky stage presence, and bland beats to win over the hit-hungry crowd. The highlight of her performance was a medley of songs she’s co-written for other artists: “Love Lies” (Khalid & Normani), “7 rings” (Ariana Grande), “High Hopes” (Panic! At The Disco), and “I Like That” (Janelle Monáe). Parx rode the resulting energy through the end of her set, pouring a little bit extra into standout songs “Rebound” and “Mama Ain’t Raise No Bitch.”
The Current’s latest in-studio session with Lizzo will air May 7 at 10 a.m. and on The Message on May 8 at 10 p.m. Listen via the airwaves or online.
Lizzo Set List
Cuz I Love You
Karaoke (Big Freedia song feat. Lizzo; Big GRRRLS dance only)
Like A Girl
Good As Hell
Coconut Oil (with flute solo)
More photos by Emmet Kowler for MPR: