Non-fans may have wondered about the artist who created long queues outside of Tampa’s Yuengling Center on Thursday night, but Lizzo tends to answer a lot of questions once she opens her mouth.
“I heard the soundcheck earlier,” a beer vendor explained as he poured a Jai Alai tall boy into a plastic cup. “I hadn’t heard of her until the MTV awards, so I was wondering about her before we got here — but, man, she is amazing.”
Haters are quick to write 31-year-old Melissa Viviane Jefferson off as a flash-in-the-pan artist capitalizing on a time in history when women of all shapes, sizes and colors have started to wrestle power away from (mostly white, old) men. Some question the Texas-based songwriter, rapper and flautist’s talent, while others clearly just can’t stand watching someone who is so outside of mainstream America’s image of beauty rise to the top of the Billboard charts, actual billboards and pop music’s collective consciousness.
Those haters should’ve been in the house alongside more than 7,000 Lizzbians decked out and ready to worship their bootyful queen as part of Lizzo’s Tampa debut.
Set opener “Heaven Help Me” featured vocals that were as clean and big as Lizzo’s glistening thighs, and those same hams created a bonafide assquake as Lizzo empowered fans with booty claps and a run through “Scuse Me” from her slept-on 2016 EP. The disco-funk on “Boys” felt like an anthem, and Lizzo’s power didnt even wane during the set’s only quiet moment (a powerful solo take on “Lingerie” where Lizzo, a classically-trained musician, navigated the vocal as if she invented the concept of key changes).
Still, there were signs that even Lizzo was caught off guard by the sudden stardom that led promoters to move her Tampa Bay show from St. Petersburg’s Jannus Live to the USF arena. Save for a DJ booth and altar, the stage was relatively bare for a production that size and the only musical accompaniment came from Lizzo’s DJ, four backup dancer/singers and Lizzo’s flute (which came out twice). The setup could’ve easily worked at Jannus, but it felt a little undercooked inside a Yuengling Center that’s found its identity as a 5,000-plus seat venue.
Lizzo herself even admitted to being surprised about making her Tampa debut in an arena. She promised, however, to spill blood, sweat and pussy juice on the stage before diving into a take on the “Gigolo” game that melted into a singalong of “Like A Girl.”
And it was the girls and non-cis people who really won at Thursday’s show. The world at large is still not a welcoming place for those who don’t conform to societal norms regarding gender and body shape, but that was not the case at Yuengling Center where it was pretty impossible to not feel embraced and accepted for who you are.
All that love, however, begged for one more question to be asked.
At what point does Lizzo’s fanbase (almost 90% white at Yuengling Center on Thursday) start to loosen its embrace of its big, black supernova of a pop-star?
Is it when Lizzo releases a not-so-great-album? How about when the world needs to have very real conversations about how black people get incarcerated at unproportional rates? How about when uncomfortable arguments about welfare and “milking the system” start to surface at the dinner table?
Maybe it’s when a ballot box initiative threatens to tax a Lizzo fan so that the kid who can only listen to Lizzo on her broken down radio can have a hot meal at school.
At what point will Lizzo stans become bystanders in marginalized communities’ very real fight for the basic privileges that richer, whiter people enjoy on the regular? Think about it: what did someone really have to sacrifice to buy that $150 ticket on StubHub?
In short, at what point will a Lizzo fan simply become another one of the fuck boys Lizzo railed against during her performance of “Water Me”? I mean, Lizzo hired a black, female front of house sound engineer — will the business owners in the crowd make sure their payroll is diverse?
All of this might be a bit too much to ponder in the context of a pop star, but the story of Lizzo, as so many of us have pointed out, feels bigger than that. And if we’re “here for it,” then let’s be here for the whole damn, complicated, thing.
The crowd was chanting, “LIZZO, LIZZO, LIZZO” during “Boys,” and our star took it all in while enjoying a big swig of water. Lizzo’s is thirsty for more fans to preach her message to, but let’s hope there are some diehards who’ll stick around if the water starts to run dry.
Heaven Help Me
Cuz I Love You
Exactly How I Feel
Like A Girl
Good As Hell