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Lizzo gets political and basks in adoration at a sold-out Armory

Lizzo

Lizzo Darin Kamnetz

Could Lizzo’s homecoming have been timed any better?

The one-time Minnesotan played her first of two sold-out shows at the Armory on Wednesday night. She’ll be back on that stage Friday. In between, we’ll endure a very different spectacle just a few blocks away.

Look, I don’t want to talk about the guy either, but there’s no avoiding the elephant in the Target Center. A president whose thuggish cruelty only endears him further to a fanbase powered by rancid white resentment is here to lie about our community. We can at least be grateful that this invasion will be bookended by a force for good celebrating her pop breakthrough moment.

At the Armory last night, groups of women enjoyed moving their bodies on their own terms, LGBTQ folks celebrated a spectrum of sexuality and gender, and a successful African-American woman onstage declared, both explicitly and in how she carried herself, that life offers pleasures of infinite variety and the complexity of your identity is an asset to be shared and cherished. We should give that America a try.

Lizzo first appeared last night in a pulpit elevated above the stage, the backdrop behind her depicting a church interior, complete with stained glass, and she began with two songs that fit the conceit: “Heaven Help Me” and “Worship.” Soon she yielded that perch to her DJ, Sophia Eris, and joined her dancers onstage, glamorously draped in a fringy gold outfit and holding the stage with innate charisma.

The crowd was particularly rapturous. There’s so much Lizzo in the air around here, and local coverage can verge on fawning, so it’s possible to get jaded, but this music inspires a vibe of real liberation in a room. During “Cuz I Love You,” women fell to their knees as they belted the over-the-top soul ballad to their pals, reveling in a kind of performative joy that was self-aware but not self-conscious.

In keeping with the church theme, Lizzo preached. “Jerome” was preceded with a disquisition on the fuckboy (though Lizzo, ever inclusive, reminded us that “fuckgirls” and “fucktheys” also lurk out there), as the singer celebrated her “fuckboy-free” status and contended that these sexually and romantically troublesome nuisances need to learn to love themselves.

Politics was an unavoidable topic. “We live in an interesting world,” Lizzo began—and if you doubt that at least some part of her is still Minnesotan, why else would she use our state’s most beloved euphemistic adjective like that? She continued in this generalized vein. “A lot of people don’t have good intentions. I’m not gonna be more specific—but some of you know what I mean.”

Still, as she shouted out Ilhan Omar and said “the country looks a lot different than the people running things” while urging black, brown, queer, and gender-non-conforming young people to get involved in politics, her sympathies were hardly hidden. Eventually she lowered the boom: “Clap so hard they can hear it at the Trump rally.”

Another extended speech introduced “Good As Hell,” to the backing of soft piano. Some concerts leave you wanting to be the star you just watched, Lizzo said, but she intended this to be different. “You’re gonna leave this concert wanting to be yourself.”

I don’t know how that reads to you, but in the moment it was… well, a moment. And that’s the thing with Lizzo: She flirts with the sort of therapeutic self-help clichés that have kept women’s magazines in business for decades. But whether tossing “hydration” into a list of buzzwords like “self-care,” “self-love,” and “body positivity” that we should embrace, or inviting each of us to consider ourselves “thicc bitches” for the night—even the undeniably unthicc non-bitches—she does it with a sexy good humor that yanks kernels of basic truth out of the commodified muck.

Lizzo’s rise to fame has seemed at times inevitable and at others so steady yet slow that you could never be sure she wouldn’t stall somewhere along the way, stranding her at the status of a viral phenomenon with a handful of extremely well-licensed songs. But a lot’s changed since she was in the Twin Cities last May to play the Palace Theatre in St. Paul. The biggest development is that “Truth Hurts” has been number one for six weeks so far, smashing the record for longest time atop the charts by a solo female rapper. With that wobbly piano part that sounds like it’s being played by an animatronic otter in a saloon-themed novelty restaurant for children, and a swerving vocal suggesting just maybe Lizzo’s had a few, it’s an ideal set closer, perfect for swaying and singing along.

Lizzo’s beloved “Sasha Flute” made its appearance as she played an instrumental prelude to “Juice,” which honestly felt a mite anticlimactic. But we can hope its vibrant afterglow will help us endure whatever slander we’re forced to hear dribble out at the Sportpalast tonight. If hate is a virus, Lizzo’s concert was a vaccination. Let’s hope that Friday night she can pull off an exorcism.

Check out our full photo gallery from last night's show here

Setlist
Heaven Help Me
Worship
Cuz I Love You
Exactly How I Feel
Scuse Me
Water Me
Jerome
It's My Party/Crybaby
Tempo
Boys
Gigolo Game/Like a Girl
Soulmate
Lingerie
Good as Hell
Truth Hurts

Encore
Juice