The first time I heard one of Lizzo’s songs, I was watching the Netflix romantic comedy “Someone Great.” The main character, fresh from a breakup the night before, danced around the kitchen proclaiming, “You’re ‘posed to hold me down, but you’re holding me back / And that’s the sound of me not calling you back.”
I immediately whipped out the phone, Shazamed this music gold and added it to my running playlist, where it’s remained a favorite for months.
So I was more than stoked at the idea of seeing Lizzo perform this masterpiece — the anthem of the year for women everywhere — and her other songs that inspire. I was clearly not the only one.
Change in venue
As part of her Cuz I love You Too tour, Lizzo was originally scheduled to perform at The Fillmore. Then in April, citing overwhelming demand, The Fillmore announced the show would be at Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre instead. As there are no assigned seats at The Fillmore, the admission for General Admission would not include a specific seat at the outdoor venue, either. “Sounds like a mess waiting to happen,” someone posted on The Fillmore’s announcement in April.
But on Sunday night, as the energized, diverse, even-men-were-there-too crowd found seats in which to see 2019’s biggest star, there was no mess. Maybe it was the venue — there really are no bad seats in the house — or maybe it was that people are mostly good and mature (ok, scratch that), or maybe it was the magic of Lizzo herself. The seats filled up, the lawn filled up, even the area off to the left side of the stage was packed with fans.
Before she took the stage, the music over the loudspeaker led to a dance party singalong. When TLC’s “No Scrubs” came on, the crowd went wild. Body-positive, woman-power Lizzo was already making her mark on Charlotte, and she wasn’t even here yet.
More than a performance
Then, around 8:45, there she was. We heard her before we saw her. “If you think you’ve got me hypnotized / I need to get you out my life. Charlotte, can I get an amen?” she called to us before strutting on stage, taking her place at an on-stage podium and telling us what we all needed to hear for the next almost two hours.
“Put your hands to the sky,” Lizzo sang to Charlotte, and the Queen City responded.
Sunday night was more than a concert. It was a witness to a movement. We got to see a superstar on the rise. And for Charlotte, she became the hero we absolutely knew we needed.
Lizzo is like that artist that you feel like you know like the back of your hand, even if you’re hearing her songs for the first time. She throws in references to James Brown, Aretha Franklin. The fun quality of her songs might remind you of 1990s Shaggy. You might think you’re listening to Sugar Hill Gang for a moment. The self-love with a dose of sexuality inspire thoughts of Madonna or Beyonce.
‘Dedication to positive music’
But at the core of it, Lizzo is simply, definitively, demandingly: Lizzo.
“I’m not trendy, I’m not cool... I’m just a big black beautiful girl who can sing about that song and y’all have supported me,” she said. “It all started with this dedication to positive music that I started back in 2015. I know it feels like it’s becoming mainstream now, but do not let them marginalize the self-love movement. Don’t let them reduce it to spa day and mimosas because you know it’s more than that, Charlotte. In times like this, self-love is a form of survival,” she told the crowd.
“In times like this, we need to be rooted in self-love so we can survive. We can survive presidencies like Donald Trump’s that like to take away our rights. We can survive people like Bill Maher, who says we need to bring shaming back into schools because fat shaming needs to make a comeback. We really need self-care to survive, Charlotte. Don’t let them take that away from you. Remember that you deserve it. You deserve to feel good as hell.
“This is where we’re going to change the world,” she said, then gifted us with a riveting performance of “Good as Hell”.
Then of course, everyone’s favorite, “Truth Hurts.” Fans screamed the lyrics back to Lizzo as she sang them to us, combining her strong yet beautiful voice with her signature strut across the stage. She donned a bridal veil for this one, a nod to the song’s music video.
Along with the song everyone knows, the one at the top of the Billboard charts for two weeks in a row now, came a tiny twinge of sadness. This meant the evening was coming to an end soon.
There was still more: a haunting yet delicate flute solo, another reminder of self-love: “Just because I’m on stage and I’ve got this 52-inch weave and a sparkly bodysuit, I’m honestly no different than all of you,” Lizzo said. “I was once a girl who was told she was too big, not cute enough, hair wasn’t good enough, couldn’t sing good enough. I wasn’t a star. I was a person who just wanted to make music and had a dream. I just want you to know when you look at me, I want you to see that your dreams can be realized, too.”
Then, it was time for the finale of the night no one wanted to end: She chose to send us home with “Juice,” singing as we headed out, back into our normal lives: “If I’m shinin’, everybody gonna shine.” And she meant it, and so we all shined.