Review: Lizzo @ Rod Laver Arena (Melbourne)

Lizzo played Rod Laver Arena (Melbourne) on 17 July, 2023.
Bron is a Melbourne-based science journalist who loves to return 'home' to a band room any chance she gets. She has 25 years' experience and has worked for Rolling Stone, Blunt, The Sydney Morning Herald, JUICE and many more.

When Lizzo was last in Melbourne, playing the Forum back in early 2020, it already felt like her show deserved to be on a stadium stage.

Now there is absolutely no question about it, as the queen stepped out onto the Rod Laver Arena stage (17 July) to deafening cheers, for the first of her two sold-out shows in the city.

Currently touring in support of her fourth album, 'Special', it was indeed something very special. From the digital visuals framing the stage, to the arena-height screen showing mesmerising loops of footage, mostly of Lizzo, the entire show was a wonderful spectacle.

Then there were the dancers and her band. Her PVC-clad backup dancers, The Lesbians, were a nonstop powerhouse of athleticism and melodrama, but yet never took away from the star at the centre.

Lizzo, stepping out in an epic gown for opener 'Cuz I Love You', soon pared it down to reveal a flared silver jumpsuit complete with cowboy tassels down each leg as the tempo picked up with the party-starter 'Juice' and '2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)'.

While it's easy to run through the set list and mention highlights, it doesn't really capture what makes Lizzo such a transformative and inspiring artist. She has that rare mix of relatability while at the same time absolutely oozing charisma and star factor.

There were many, many highlights, however the Missy Elliott-tinted digital show behind the stage for 'Tempo', sprinkling of covers like Coldplay's 'Yellow' and Chaka Khan's 'I'm Every Woman', a Cardi B intro to 'Rumors', and, of course, the appearance of the famous Sasha, the flute.

There were shout-outs to the fans having birthdays, a celebration of pride, reminders of self-love and kindness, and plenty of comedy relief. Perhaps none more so than when the lights went out on the stage for 'Truth Hurts'.

Given the amount of camera screens and the sparkle emanating from Lizzo's shimmery gold dress, it wasn't immediately evident to anyone in the bleachers, but those down the front – and Lizzo – sure noticed. She called for the lights to be turned back on, and then quipped to one of her nearby crew: "Did we pay the light bill, bitch?!"

The lights did eventually come back on, and fans were treated to a do-over of 'Truth Hurts', this time the spotlight firmly on Lizzo as she busted out a booty-shaking Sasha solo.

A key element – and a wonderful aspect – of Lizzo's shows are her frequent interludes where she connects with her fans. Incredibly, even in a packed, large arena she was still singling out people in the stands, giving them shoutouts, taking some selfies, snapping a BeReal clip for someone else, shimmying down onto her stomach on the stage floor to get a group shot with two others.

She even indulged a fan in the front row with playing the paper 'fortune teller' game we all remember from school. It was more than wholesome; it showed Lizzo's genuine ability and love of letting her fans know they're 'seen'.

This was echoed at other times when she had everyone turn to their seat or floor neighbour and remind them they're special, or when she asked: "When was the last time you said something kind about yourself?"

Lizzo's copped an unbelievable amount of vitriol for not fitting some archaic, traditional (and largely male-constructed) image of a 'pop star'. But she isn't fuelled by that; instead, she's forged her own path of celebrating love, community and empowerment. (Deliciously, it's something that continues to see her live rent-free in the haters' heads.)

As the show wrapped up, the entire 14,000-plus crowd on their feet singing 'Good As Hell’ and encore 'About Damn Time', Rod Laver Arena was full of beaming smiles and more than a few watery eyes.

Lizzo is a gift. I was about to say the gift we don't deserve, but I would be letting her down if I thought that. Let me rephrase it: We all deserve Lizzo, and Lizzo deserves all the adoration (as well as that incredible sparkly, tequila-bottle-shaped handbag someone passed to her during the show).

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