Olivia Rodrigo is having a moment. And the biggest pop star in the world brought that moment to the Bayou City on Thursday, May 12 in one of the most raucous and highly anticipated shows of 2022.
Visiting the 713 Music Hall in downtown Houston on her first major headline tour, fans camped out all day in the sun to score prime real estate down front in the general admission section. And why wouldn't they with Rodrigo recently winning three Grammy Awards for Best New Artist, Best Pop Vocal Album for her album, Sour, and Best Pop Solo Performance for "Drivers License."
She also hit No. 1 with the aforementioned "Drivers License" and single "Good 4 U," all 11 songs from her record-breaking No. 1 debut hit the Billboard Top 30.
Needless to say, it would be hard for the 19-year-old to disappoint her fans at a show that sold out in minutes, tickets finding their way to the resale market for hundreds of dollars. Thankfully, the former Disney star made it clear from the start why she is heralded as Gen Z's Alanis Morrissette with a healthy dose of '90s alt-rock inspiration sprinkled throughout the night and confessional lyrics that reached millions.
Opener Holly Humberstone proved a worthy start to the evening, a singer-songwriter no doubt inspired by New Zealand songstress, Lorde, and from a distance, looked like a close relative to the headliner. Performing solo with a guitar, keyboard and sampler, Humberstone worked through early sound troubles and show stoppages seemingly caused by fans passing out from waiting in line for hours before the show. However, her waiting for fans to be assessed by security proved to be an endearing quality as she worked through heartfelt, synth-tinged songs, including "Overkill," the Killers-indebted "I Adore You, I Don't Need You Now," and excellent set closer, "Walls Too Thin," which recalled VH1 fave, Jewel.
Between sets, the crowd was treated to songs by a number of '90s female-fronted bands including No Doubt, Republica, Sheryl Crow, and Hole. Coming out to "Olivia" by One Direction, Rodrigo set off massive shrieks among her devoted audience before it broke into what would be a start-to-finish, set-long singalong with the punky and surprisingly heavy, "Brutal."
Dressed in black platform boots, black gloves, and purple plaid mini skirt, the pop songstress pogoed across the stage, showcasing her rock-leaning band with the traditional drummer, guitar, bass and keyboard set up. Follow-up "Jealousy, Jealousy," could have easily charted in 1995 with its sludgy guitars.
After acknowledging the crowd, Rodrigo queued up the song that rocketed her into the stratosphere. “I wrote this song about a deep heartbreak I’d been through," she said, recalling how a friend didn't realize what she was experiencing until she heard the song for the first time. "I think that’s the most beautiful thing about music, that it can communicate things you feel that you can't say in words."
Sat at a piano, Rodrigo launched into "Drivers License," wearing a pink fringed cowboy hat thrown onstage. The mass singalong that nearly drowned out her vocals left her visibly emotional at the completion of the expertly detailed song of heartache.
Then it was the first of two covers from two female alt-rock legends, Avril Lavigne's "Complicated," surely appreciated by the parents in the crowd. Rodrigo strapped on an acoustic guitar for the ode to a long-lost friend "Hope Ur OK," the curtains closing behind her to leave her front and center on the stage, a fan screaming "I love you!" during a quiet moment.
Heartbreakers "Enough for You," about facing insecurity in a relationship, and the Jack Antonoff co-write, "1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back," wrapped up the mini-solo set.
A costume change into a bedazzled silver dress matched the disco ball that now hung overhead, perfect for yet another massive singalong, "Happier," about rebounding from an ex who has moved on much sooner. Sounding like The Beatles' "Across the Universe," with a killer guitar solo, Rodrigo sported another fringed cowboy hat, this time purple, similar to ones seen throughout the venue.
A callback to her stint on Disney's High School Musical, Rodrigo paid fan service with "All I Want," friends and couples embracing while swaying side-to-side before a cute curtsy at the conclusion.
Moms got up for the second cover of the night, No Doubt's "Just A Girl," introduced as a song "by my friend Gwen Stefani," who only just performed the track at RodeoHouston last March. Coincidentally, follow-up "Favorite Crime" played as a Maren Morris country tune.
"Traitor" served as the opening suite of break-up anthems, along with back-to-back smash hits "Déjà Vu" and "Good 4 U," both highlights in a night with many. "Déjà Vu," sung while laying back down on the piano was a fantastic late-‘90s, early 2000s throwback to when emo-pop was all over radio but elevated past the limitations of the genre.
Set closer, "Good 4 U" flexed as a hard chugging rock song with an intro that could have easily been mistaken for an intro by a grunge band, evened out by Rodrigo's sweet vocals and giving way to a catchiness literally straight from a Paramore song (singer Hayley Williams is credited as a songwriter).
Overall, the electric performance by the biggest pop artist in years was akin to catching lightning in a bottle, a moment in time when an artist speaks to the masses, before the inevitable arena shows beckon. It will be a moment a fans will recall years later with friends, noting they were a part of the cultural zeitgeist, there to see a once-in-a-generation talent at her start.
Thursday night's show was a raw, emotional feeling etched in amber, born from honest, heartfelt, feelings and carried by undeniable pop star magic, easily blowing the roof off the venue with enough energy to move mountains (and loads of merch).
It was a scene that few had witnessed before and its one we likely won’t see again for years to come.
"Complicated" (Avril Lavigne cover)
"Hope Ur Ok"
"Enough For You"
"1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back"
"All I Want"
"Just a Girl" (No Doubt cover)
"Good 4 U"