By Karynn Brown
Photos and video by Gabriella Parsons
Sept. 6, 2017
New Jersey-born artist SZA performed last night in Lincoln, bringing a sold-out crowd to the Bourbon Theatre for the first time following its largest remodel since 2009.
With a post-remodel standing-room capacity of 637, the front and performance-area bars were operating at full strength during the show. The venue used both entrances to get concert-goers through the doors, which opened at 7 p.m.
The performance started with openers Ravyn Lenae and Smino.
Lenae, a 17-year old artist from Chicago warmed right up to the crowd, calling Lincoln the place with the most energy she’s seen on tour.
She started the set with a call-and-response pledge to the crowd, “I swear, to move my body”, and with that, the full crowd was ready to dance. Lenae performed several songs highlighting her R&B/hip hop style that prepared the crowd for SZA’s own unique R&B talent. She addressed the Bourbon once more before the end of her set, calling out how beautiful everyone was. Her second EP, “Midnight Moonlight” is available now via SoundCloud and Spotify.
SZA’s latest album, CTRL, was released June 9 on Top Dawg Entertainment/RCA Records (also home to Kendrick Lamar and SchoolboyQ).Complementing her previous EPs, See.SZA.Run, S and Z,, Pitchfork declared CTRL’s theme to be “about sexual freedom while still having your hunger for intimacy be taken seriously.” As her only full-length album, CTRL’s themes of love, loss and strength were clearly felt throughout the packed house. The sold-out show rippled with dancing, cheers and positivity that translated easily from SZA’s music.
Although it began with a hiccup in microphone feedback difficulties, SZA’s rhythm and blues-turned-soulful hip-hop music kept the crowd rolling with positive energy throughout her hour-long set. She ensured water bottles were thrown into the crowd by Bourbon staff and spent time between songs to “check in,” making sure “everyone is safe, everyone has water.”
SZA praised the energy in the room and engaged a fan who had made her a canvas-painted sign. “Did you make that? It’s beautiful,” she called to the fan, before performing a song holding the sign and passing it off backstage. Near the middle of the show, SZA took time to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of her crew members, bringing him and a cake on-stage to recognize this person who is special to her.
Consisting of songs mostly from CTRL, the show opened with “Go Gina”. Hits such as “Doves in the Wind (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”, “Normal Girl” and “The Weekend” also made an appearance. She prefaced the final piece by giving a shout-out to all of the twenty-somethings in the crowd, which incited cheers and raised hands from the majority of the crowd. She ended on the song “20 Something”, doing a semi-acapella rendition that inspired the crowd, exiting the stage with fades of “God Bless, God Bless”.
SZA has been on tour with Lenae and Smino or the entire CTRL tour, which started on Aug. 16 in Richmond, Va., and continues through a Dec. 17 date in St. Louis.
For more information, visit SZA on the web at szactrl.com.
Karynn Brown is one of KZUM’s fall interns.