Lizzo review – like downing a quadruple espresso martini of female self-reliance

Ovo Hydro, Glasgow
The Glasgow-loving US star’s whip-smart extravaganza of glittering sisterhood is an irresistible showcase of hits and positivity with just a hint of pop juggernaut

In a better, kinder, funnier parallel universe where Lizzo’s values are uppermost, every day is International Women’s Day. Or no days are, because there is no need for it. Until we get there, the US singer’s UK tour kicks off on IWD with an all-female band, three female backing vocalists, the Little Bigs, Lizzo’s longtime DJ, Sophia Eris, and the 10-strong Big Grrrls dance troupe, stars of Lizzo’s triple-Emmy-winning reality competition show, Watch Out for the Big Grrrls. Those Emmys put Lizzo halfway to EGOT status – ie bagging an Emmy, a Grammy (current tally: four), an Oscar and a Tony. Among many bravura performances on the stage tonight, one stands out. At just 19, guitarist Jordan Waters plays a kind of Steve Lacy role – a wunderkind who can muster plangent, taut, Prince-like funk lines, but never lapses into the kind of florid rock solos that have become endemic at pop gigs.

We know we are in Glasgow because Lizzo revels in shouting it – “GlasGOH!” she hollers, often – and twice starts a chant of “here we, here we fucking go”. Arena divas seem to act as though every city is their favourite, but Lizzo’s love for Glasgow, like her love of many things, seems genuine. Reports in the Scottish press suggest she sent complimentary tickets for tonight’s gig to the staff of famed Glasgow micro-venue Nice’n’Sleazy, in recognition of a great time she’d had there years back.

Tonight’s extravaganza of glitter and sisterhood is both slick and authentic. As has become customary – certainly since Lizzo’s breakout album of 2019, Cuz I Love You, but in her previous indie career as well – a night out in Lizzo’s company is like downing a quadruple espresso martini of female self-reliance and LGBTQ++ positivity. In a lovely touch, a tearful guy called Grant asks her to propose to his boyfriend, via his phone. On the morning of the show, Lizzo tweeted about racism and transphobia; a few days before, she had raised an online eyebrow at the return of the Victoria’s Secret lingerie catwalk show.

One of the most pernicious forms of misogyny – conforming to certain body shapes – certainly does not survive the night. Here are women – many women – taking up space – lots of space – with so much wit and energy. For act one, Lizzo is resplendent in a nude bodysuit on which skimpy bright blue swooshes accentuate her curves. From opening track The Sign on in, there is so much twerking, it almost ceases to be provocative. (In case twerking still bothers anyone, there’s a Lizzo Ted Talk about the cultural history of Black female movement to consult.) One of the most memorable tracks of the night is Naked, a ballad to her body that also takes in vulnerability in love. In a clever bit of understated stagecraft, lasers appear to burn lines on the floor through the dry ice.

As songs from Lizzo’s latest album, Special (2022) alternate with tracks from its predecessor and the EP that inaugurated her current era, Coconut Oil (2016), it’s as though she knows she has roughly two hours a night in which to rebalance cosmic scales weighted in favour of hate, division and cruelty. So every held note, every high kick, every message – whether pre-recorded, writ large on video screens, or, in the case of the Roe v Wade-referencing My Body My Choice, projected on to Lizzo’s second, neutral-coloured bodysuit – is replete with upliftment, re-education and seenness.

Another of the night’s highlights is Rumors, a non-album 2021 collaboration between Lizzo and Cardi B. As the song rolls its eyes at social media, where women get it in the neck, text-message bubbles, OMG-ing at fake Lizzo news, fill the screens. A laughing Cardi B appears as a (recorded) video selfie, fluffing her own lines, a strangely sweet and intimate way to phone in a guest verse.

Joy unconfined all round, then. The one tiny hair worth splitting tonight is that the Special songs, although still very special, just aren’t as characterful as Lizzo’s older tracks. It’s not that recent hits such as About Damn Time aren’t glorious – they are. A No 1 in the US, it won the coveted record of the year Grammy, the first time a Black woman has won it since Whitney Houston – for I Will Always Love You – in 1994, which boggles the mind in an era dominated by Beyoncé.

Watch the video for Rumors by Lizzo, ft. Cardi B.

Covers of Lauryn Hill and Chaka Khan play well tonight, while a mashup of Lizzo’s stark old hip-hop track Phone and a new song, Grrls, is harder, faster and more fun. But given the plethora of disco-inspired lockdown records, the retro glitterball twinkle on Special risks having the perverse effect of making Lizzo feel like just another big name. Heft may be beautiful, but the industry heavyweights brought on to Special have had a homogenising influence on Lizzo’s whip-smart zingers. Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Ilya, Kid Harpoon: these men have polished wares for everyone from Ariana Grande to Harry Styles. Lizzo’s stellar individuality has room for braver production choices, not undemanding prêt-à-porter in limiting sizes.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Lizzo review – a joyful, slightly rude hug of a night out
The cult rapper woos 5,000 fans with a nimble mix of funk, pop and hip-hop

Kitty Empire

09, Nov, 2019 @2:00 PM

Article image
Lizzo: Cuz I Love You review – on the bright side of history
US singer and rapper Melissa Jefferson’s third album is the biggest, most focused set of her career thus far

Kitty Empire

20, Apr, 2019 @1:00 PM

Article image
FKA twigs: Caprisongs review – party tunes and hard-won notes to self
The left-field singer makes a bid for the mainstream with hook-centric pop that centres on self-knowledge not trauma

Kitty Empire

15, Jan, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
Lizzo: Special review – next-level irresistible disco-pop
Her astonishing vocals and relatable lyrics remain a joy as the force-of-nature singer-songwriter picks up where Cuz I Love You left off

Damien Morris

24, Jul, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
FKA twigs review – visually intoxicating comeback show
In a dazzling yet oblique set that embraces ballet and swordplay, FKA twigs shows no sign of pursuing mainstream stardom

Kitty Empire

01, Jun, 2019 @1:00 PM

Article image
Sault: Nine review – a masterclass in anger and balm
The enigmatic collective’s fifth album in two years is another masterclass in confounding expectations

Kitty Empire

03, Jul, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
Beyoncé: Renaissance review – a breathtaking, maximalist tour de force
The superstar’s seventh solo album is a kaleidoscopic barrage of disco, soul, house and dancehall that puts other post-pandemic party albums in the shade

Kitty Empire

06, Aug, 2022 @1:00 PM

Article image
Khalid review – teen spirit squandered?
Khalid’s meteoric rise from high-school student to stadium-filler has seen him spread himself too thinly and lose the edge to his heartfelt songs

Kitty Empire

21, Sep, 2019 @1:00 PM

Article image
Haim review – sisters doing it for each other
Olympia theatre, Dublin
The California siblings shrug off a dose of flu with a summery set of repartee and word-perfect singalongs

Kitty Empire

17, Jun, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
Mabel: High Expectations review – something sassy this way comes
Eschewing her uber-cool heritage, Mabel serves up chart-friendly pop and R&B on her debut album

Kitty Empire

03, Aug, 2019 @1:00 PM