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Lizzo is a beacon of hope, resilience, and power

 By Shirley Griffith

September 17, 2019

Traffic lined both entrance roads into NC Music Factory Sunday night as people poured into the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre. LA synth-pop artist, Empress Of, opened the night and fans eagerly cheered her on, especially to the alt-electronica musician’s hit, “When I’m With Him.” Between sets, a curated playlist of important milestone songs for hip-hop and the female empowerment movement blasted across the sea of people thanks to DJ Sophia Eris. Missy Elliott’s “One Minute Man,” TLC’s “No Scrubs,” and even Juvenile’s twerk-encouraging “Back That Ass Up” created a communal clubbing atmosphere which hyped up concert-goers with Lizzo-approved feel good, self-love anthems. The stage was set up simply with low-lighted stairs, breezy, ethereal draping backdrops, and a singular pulpit which doubled as a DJ booth. Lizzo emerged from the shadows and commanded “Amens.” It was a Sunday in the Bible Belt, afterall, and the glorious praise hailed down from the zealous, deafening screams of the crowd. 

Empress Of photo by Amber Smith

Elaborating on the religious undertones, the golden-clad singer christened the evening with “Worship Me,” mashing it into a remix of Aretha Franklin’s emphatic anthem, “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” The show was originally scheduled for the Fillmore, but overwhelming demand by Charlotte’s Lizzo fans (lovingly dubbed Lizzbians) prompted a move to the bigger, outdoor venue. Lizzo remarked on the move, “Y’all had to take it outside! This one’s for y’all, this one’s for the big girls, can I get a ‘I love you big girls’?” And with that cue, thousands of Charlotteans roared back, “I love you big girls!” in a moment of excited acceptance for women who are constantly undermined and told by society that they’re too much, take up too much space, don’t belong in certain roles, and don’t deserve to feel sexy. 

Photo: Amber Smith 

Lizzo uplifts everyone around her with a primary message of self-love, but it’s clear her focus is to spotlight the beauty in every body and make sure that we see the worth in ourselves. “Scuse Me” started off with a grungy, psychedelic Black Sabbath-worthy sample before a dance break, complete with a small dance crew of varying body sizes and utmost talent, blending in Gucci Mane and the song’s lyrics that praise the body’s thickness. The dancers stayed on stage and worked through an energetic OA-esque (the Netflix show) breathwork routine and Lizzo once again emerged from the darkness for “Water Me.”

Photo: Amber Smith

A childlike, simple xylophone scale played in the background as Lizzo pulled up a stool and sat chatting with the crowd. “By now, y’all know me, y’all know what I’m about– body positivity, a strong black woman, y’all know…so why oh why, after all this time of working on myself, why do I *still* run into fuckboys?!! Fuck girls, fuck theys/thems, it all comes around. What I’ve realized is fuck boys don’t love themselves. We’re better off without them and it’s time to tell Jerome to take his ass home!” This of course, was the perfect set up to her track, “Jerome,” a loose play on Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone,” a soulful, impassioned curse of dealing with men who refuse to step up to the plate in their relationships. To the triumphant gospel backing music, Lizzo swayed her arms back and forth, stirring the entire audience’s energy into one massive mix of anti-fuckboy space before she tossed herself against the stairs, pleading for “Jerome” to leave her alone. 

Photo: Amber Smith

The xylophone once again sounded out, this time to the tune of Lesley Gore’s (famous for her 1963 feminist/civil rights anthem “You Don’t Own Me”) angst-heavy “It’s My Party (Cry If I Want To)” which Lizzo used her impressive range to howl, reminscient of Janis Joplin, emptying her soul into the night. Choreographed head bangs and tortured guitar wails opened into “Tempo,” the 2019 bass-driven collaboration with Missy Elliott. Lizzo rapped without missing a beat as her dancers engaged in an enthusiastic twerk battle. Lizzo baptized everyone as a “thick bitch in this muthafucka tonight” to uproarious applause and remarked, “Yeah, it feels good don’t it, being a thick bitch?” as she introduced her thumping, funky track, “Boys.”

Photo: Amber Smith

Lizzo took another few moments to speak directly to the crowd, relaying that she went to the strip club the night before and, for the first time ever, heard her song playing while she was in a club. More importantly, she took the time to address her support for sex workers and take back the often-used slur, “bitch,” telling the crowd, “Being called a bitch didn’t stop Ilhan Omar from running, didn’t stop Elizabeth Warren from running for president…We need to be celebrating the feminine identity and everything about it. So, in honor of my girls, I’d like to play a little game.” With that, Lizzo and her dancers played a variation of the name game, a simple playground rhyming formula that launched into “Like A Girl,” which boasts the tempting lyrics, “Woke up feelin’ like I just might run for president, even if there ain’t no precedent, switching up the messaging, about to add a little estrogen.” 

Photo: Amber Smith

After singing Happy Birthday to a crowd member, Lizzo spoke to the crowd to say she didn’t always know what a Lizzo fan looked like– much less that she even had fans. “I know what a Lizzo fan looks like now, it’s someone that loves themselves, someone who can look in the mirror and say, ‘You got this!’ You are your own soulmate! You’ll never be lonely because you’ll always have yourself,” which transitioned into “Soulmate”– a clapback track that destroys the idea of marriage as a symbol of self-worthiness. 

A healthy twerk break kept fans dancing as Lizzo obtained a silky pink lingerie robe to give a speech about self-love. The star mused, “There are always people around tearing down our self-esteem. In times like these we need to be rooted in self-love. Don’t let them reduce self-love down or marginalize it. Her ubiquitous psalm for brushing off the bullshit and feeling good even through the hard times, “Good As Hell” was followed by the current No. 1 song in the country, “Truth Hurts” where Lizzo donned a bridal veil and proceeded to marry herself in lieu of settling for anything less than what she deserved. The song’s first verse cut out and the entire venue shrieked, “You coulda had a bad bitch” at the drop’s infectious hook under pulses of pink and purple lighting. 

Photo: Amber Smith

The stage cleared for Lizzo to bring out her partner in crime, Sasha Flute. Not only does Lizzo write her own songs, have astounding range, rap with impeccable clarity, use her platform to show respect and love to marginalized people, but she’s also a classically trained flautist. Sasha treated the crowd to an extensive solo and held her own for an extended outro of “Truth Hurts” where the dancers twerked, and Lizzo spun around on one foot. The night closed out with lookin’ cute party song “Juice” which sent the audience over the top with self-empowerment messaging. 

Lizzo is a beacon of hope, resilience, and power. Even the moon rose to the occasion, silently beaming down over the thousands in attendance. Especially the brightest star, Lizzo, who has overcome every obstacle and proved every doubter wrong just by following her heart and being herself. 

Check out the remaining dates on the Lizzo tour and more photos from the Charlotte show.

Photo: Amber Smith
Photo: Amber Smith 
Photo: Amber Smith
Photo: Amber Smith
Photo: Amber Smith
Photo: Amber Smith

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