“I used to sell my mixtapes for five bucks. Now I’m on tour with Lizzo!” said rapper Latto, setting the stage during an opening performance in Chicago Sunday night.
“The Special Tour,” one of the year’s hottest, makes its way across the U.S. and Canada into mid-November before heading to Europe in February and March, singer and rapper Lizzo celebrating the release of her massive fourth studio album Special, her highest charting upon release this past July.
During turbulent times in an era where social media and the internet can render anyone an anonymous critic, Lizzo’s empowering, socially conscious message is refreshing and was on display over the course of about two hours Sunday during a highly interactive, sold out evening in Chicago.
“These are songs about love… Love is what the world needs to be a better place,” said Lizzo early in Sunday’s performance, momentarily quelling the chant of a raucous Windy City crowd. “Treat yourself with respect… And then treat someone else with that same respect.”
There was a palpable buzz as Lizzo took to the United Center stage, the crowd drowning out the singer’s between-song banter on an almost constant basis, shrieks, cries, claps, laughs and screams a lingering presence at various volumes throughout the concert.
Joined by a bevy of dancers, a DJ and a four-piece band (keyboard, drums, guitar, bass) Lizzo showcased her impressive vocal range throughout the show, incorporating elements of soul, rap, pop and more, no single track tying all of it together as well as “Special,” the perfect combination of an almost big band vibe and live powerhouse vocals.
“Make some noise for the flute!” said Lizzo Sunday night following “Coldplay,” only a few weeks removed from the Great Flute Kerfuffle of 2022. “The most famous flute on the planet!” she joked following the song, reminding fans of the headlines generated after she played James Madison’s crystal flute in a historic moment on stage in Washington, D.C. “Chill, b–ch. You got your 15 minutes,” she said to laughs, placing her flute on a pedestal which would soon descend from the stage and out of view.
Lizzo is in fact a classically trained flutist, having studied the instrument from an early age, eventually focusing on classical music during her studies at the University of Houston. She showcased the instrument again during “Juice” later in the show.
The live band cemented an R&B feel during “The Sign” to kick things off Sunday, more dancers making their way out as the number of performers on stage swelled to 12 during “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready),” lasers soaring over the crowd (that number would later reach 15).
“Chicago! My name is Lizzo and welcome to ‘The Special Tour!’ Lemme hear you say ‘big girls!’” said the star. “I’ve been asking every city this question: When was the last time you said something nice about yourself? You know how many people are like, ‘never?’ Better make up a little compliment about yourself,” advised Lizzo, a lovely organ intro following a brief acapella vocal bit, drums kicking in behind a catchy percolating keyboard part on “Soulmate,” the crowd bouncing along out of the opening chorus as dancers twerked in place.
“Grrls” sampled the Beastie Boys while a rad guitar solo, courtesy of Jordan Waters, just 19, kicked of “Tempo” later, Cardi B appearing on the video screen as Lizzo let “Rumors” fly.
“Y’all mind if I come a little closer?” she asked rhetorically, making her way from the stage down the runway to a b stage set within the general admission portion of the arena floor. Lizzo’s body doubled as a green screen during “Naked,” imagery including rose pedals being projected onto it for viewing on the massive arena screen flanking the stage. “My body my choice” read one powerful message during the performance.
“This is gonna be one of those fun nights,” said Lizzo, responding to rapturous applause from the raucous Chicago crowd while sprawled out on a sofa, spotlights highlighting the star at the foot of the b stage prior to “Jerome.” “This is the part of the show I like to call therapy. This light represents the love that you have for yourself.”
Lizzo channeled Fugees frontwoman Lauryn Hill during “Doo Wop (That Thing)” while “I’m Every Woman” conjured up images of Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston soon after, all total a celebration spanning four generations of dynamic female star power.
One of the most impressive vocal moments of the night came during “Cuz I Love You,” Lizzo soaring on an extended lead, pausing for applause as the house lights came up, blowing a kiss with her left hand during an extended mid-song standing ovation. “Chicago…” marveled the star, the crowd carrying her vocal as live drums kicked back in, setting up “If You Love Me.”
“It’s been a long two or three years – and we’ve all had the same two or three years… But you survived,” said Lizzo, reflecting upon the quarantine of early pandemic that deprived artists and fans alike of the unparalleled human connection that the live music experience can provide. “Y’all ready?” she asked, piano setting up a standout centerpiece in “Truth Hurts.”
“Thank you!” said Lizzo, soaking in the incredible crowd response, a massive disco ball hanging over the crowd following “Juice” prior to “About Damn Time.” “You have no idea how much this real time support meant to me. The internet ain’t s–t. This is real. This is love. Remember that,” she implored of the crowd, Sunday’s show entering its final stages. “People are gonna try and tear you down. I know that because people have tried to tear me down,” she continued. “But you can do anything. You have so much more to give. Please remember that. You are beautiful.”
December 5, 2022