SZA feels deeply. Lucky for fans, she possesses an uncanny ability to capture every love, every hurt, and every emotion in between with music that destroys cookie cutter norms, cuts through the bullshit, and connects to universal human experiences with her very personal storytelling.
During her Oct. 10 show at the United Center – the second SOS Tour stop at the Chicago stadium this year – SZA navigated the packed crowd through the rough waters of life with music serving as a beacon of light in the darkness.
“I woke up sad today, randomly, for no actual reason. That shit just be happening and y’all lifted my spirits so much. I’m so grateful. I really needed it. Thank you,” SZA said following performances of “Ghost in the Machine,” “Used,” and more early in the night.
As soon as gates opened at the United Center, every single ticket holder was ready to have an amazing experience. From the show-opening performance from the 18-year-old, soon-to-be superstar, d4vd – which included his gorgeous lullaby “Sleep Well” and the enchanting single “Backstreet Girl” – to the between-sets dance party that broke out before SZA even took the stage, the good vibes from fans were already reverberating across the building. Then, SZA appeared and the venue truly erupted.
The show unfolded in several scenes beginning with a performance of “PSA,” SZA’s vocals popping against the serene yet isolating imagery of the SOS album cover. Later, the joyful groove of “Prom” had everyone moving and “Normal Girl” put SZA’s versatility on display with its shifting moods and melodies. A small, stage-faring boat transported the singer through songs including “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” and “All the Stars,” but as the water got choppy, SZA opted for higher ground in the form of a lifeboat traveling above the crowd.
This memorable segment found SZA sailing from the stage – towards a lighthouse in the center of the venue – as she sang “Supermodel / Special” and “Nobody Gets Me,” the latter of which she explained was about an ex-fiance she no longer speaks to. As her boat moved effortlessly overhead, fans below cheered their love and gratitude up towards SZA which she returned by creating special moments with every smile and wave.
Elsewhere, “Kiss Me More” inspired one of the biggest dance parties of the night and SZA’s vocal runs on “SOS” were jaw-dropping. Later, fans were singing so loud during “Kill Bill” that it was almost hard to hear SZA. Her smile on the other hand was impossible to miss.
The Morse code SOS signal has been around for over a century. While SZA’s latest album is a baby in comparison, it has quickly become an important tool for anyone experiencing distress and looking for hope amid the shaky seas of love.
(Photos by Laurie Fanelli)