About damn time.
Chart-topping, international pop sensation, and hometown hero, Lizzo, finally played the massive show her fans patiently waited to see at Toyota Center on Wednesday, October 26.
And it was good as hell.
It’s been nearly three long years since Melissa Viviane Jefferson was set to perform what would have been the biggest show of her stratospheric career at RodeoHouston in early 2020. That performance was cancelled along with everything else due to the COVID-19 pandemic and when the rodeo eventually returned in 2022, organizers and Lizzo’s team couldn’t make schedules work.
That made her two-hours-plus appearance Wednesday night a de facto victory lap, her legions of diehards filling the arena to the rafters.
The evening also served as a tribute to the 34-year-old Lizzo’s years growing up in southwest Houston, attending Alief Elsik High School, and later University of Houston where she studied music. A true rags to riches story, she moved to Minneapolis to pursue her career as a recording artist, struggling for years as a quirky alternative rapper before embracing funk, soul, and disco and garnering massive acclaim as a multiple Grammy, Emmy, and BET Award winner.
It was a classy touch to see the Alief Elsik Rams Marching Band performing in front of the building before the show.
Not surprisingly, based on Lizzo’s messages of female empowerment throughout her catalog, women made up the vast majority of the crowd, dressed in wild outfits, bedazzled sequins, and colorful boas.
After pulse-building sets from rappers Spicy Santana and fast-rising “Big Energy” star Lazzo, Lizzo kicked off the night with “The Sign” from this year’s No. 2 hit album, Special. The crowd instantly gravitated to the charismatic entertainer dressed in a suggestive pink jumpsuit as she rose from under the stage in front of a fantastic all-female, five-piece backup band that kicked out the jams all night long.
“Houston mother****ing Texas!” Lizzo screamed at the end of the song, the decibels ratcheted well past healthy levels. That kicked into “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)” and its indie keyboard riff, Lizzo’s Big Grrrls dancers showing off with choreographed twerking moves.
The impossibly louder response following that song was one of a few moments when the star performer became emotional in front of the hometown crowd, turning around to show the Houston skyline lovingly painted onto her wig.
“I am not going to cry tonight — that is the goal,” Lizzo declared hopefully. “[But] we gonna be acting out. It’s a home show, honey!”
Love was a big theme throughout the night — loving each other, self-love, body love, Black love, female love, LGBTQIA+ love, love gone wrong — at times it felt like a self-help convention with Lizzo directing the crowd through positive affirmations. Not that it was a surprise to anyone who watched the recent Lizzo-produced, Emmy Award-winning reality competition series, Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.
Not coincidentally, “Tempo,” the Missy Elliot featuring song from the No. 4 hit 2019 album, Cuz I Love You, featured a solo dance by Houston influencer, fashion model and Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls star Sydney Bell.
Highlights included the Cardi B-guesting “Rumors,” which alluded to the online chatter that has been surrounding Lizzo online, including her supposed relationship with Captain America himself, Chris Evans. Cuz I Love You highlight and break-up song, “Jerome,” had Lizzo showing off her powerful vocal pipes on a therapy couch.
The Special title-track had her tearing up again to extended applause, showing how much the night meant to her.
Much like Lady Gaga’s show at Minute Maid Park last month, Lizzo used her platform to talk politics. “Naked” featured visually striking projections onto her bodysuit, ending with “My Body My Choice” in bold letters, drawing a hugely positive reaction from the female-centric crowd.
After “Everybody’s Gay,” she alluded to the negative punditry from right-wing conservatives when she recently played James Madison’s crystal flute (yes, this was a whole thing), an opportunity provided by the Library of Congress. (Read our story here.)
She followed that by imploring the crowd to participate in the upcoming elections:
“We have an opportunity to vote for the people who are passing these laws that are supposed to be protecting us,” she said, everyone staying in their seats. “Because human rights should be a necessity. It shouldn’t be politicized, it should be a given, the bare f***ing minimum, so please go vote.”
She later took a moment to acknowledge the Alief Elsik marching band in attendance, recalling her time at the high school and giving a shoutout to her mother, who was also in the building.
She then asked for the house lights to be brought up and proceeded to thank almost every single section of the arena for 10 minutes, telling us all, “I see you," as happy audience members flashed on the big stage screens.
The triple-punch combo of the record-breaking No. 1 track “Truth Hurts,” “I Love You Bitch,” and always great “Good As Hell” concluded the set with massive singalongs, Lizzo vocals not necessary. And perhaps the most fun moments came when she busted out her flute on “Coldplay” and encore bangers, “Juice” and No. 1 disco throwback, “About Damn Time.”
Perhaps the greatest thing about Lizzo’s talent besides her otherworldly charm and friendly sincerity was her ability to distill the best of multiple musical genres that cover a wide diversity of tastes, providing something for everyone to enjoy. She’s claimed to be a closet Radiohead fan in high school, and she is obviously influenced by Beyoncé, ‘70s funk, soul, and disco.
All of this made for a varied and accessible set in what was one of the more enjoyable performances of the year.
“This is the place I’m from, this is the place I call home,” she said, 713 pride on full display. “I just want to remind you how special you are. I want you to take this feeling home with you and I know I sound like a broken record, but I love you, you are beautiful, and you can do anything!”
“2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)”
“Phone / Grrrls”
“Boys” (with intro from Heart of the Sunrise by Yes)
“Fitness” (band played live, Lizzo on tape)
“Break Up Twice”
“Doo Wop (That Thing) ” (Lauryn Hill cover)
“I'm Every Woman” (Chaka Khan cover)
“Like a Girl”
“Birthday Girl/Happy Birthday”
“Everybody’s Gay” (followed by band introductions)
“Cuz I Love You”
“If You Love Me”
“I Love You Bitch”
“Good as Hell”
“About Damn Time”