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Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour Tour is a Punky Heartbreak Review


PORTLAND, Ore. — As a pop star, Olivia Rodrigo’s legacy includes precise dissectors and unruly shredders, angst and angst. Her debut album, “Sour” – one of the finest releases of the last year and one of the most promising pop arrival announcements of recent years – calmly and assuredly uses deeply inner lyrics as a pretext for a fight.

Onstage Tuesday night at the Moda Center’s Theater of the Clouds here, in the first performance of her Sour Tour, she struggled to reconcile those competing impulses from the get-go. Heavy guitar scuffs heralded his arrival and kicked off the teenage misery anthem “Brutal,” followed by the seething “Jealousy, Jealousy.”

Then Rodrigo sat down at the piano she’d ignored and leaned over “Drivers License,” the song that had made it all possible. A cry of utter loneliness, it was released in early January 2021 and became a pandemic megasmash and the most important pop song of the last year, catapulting Rodrigo from minor Disney show fame to total pop culture conflagration. .

She took her time here, showing the piercing thickness of her voice, even though apparently each of the several thousand people present tried to outdo her. After she finished, she exhaled and smiled and noted, “This song won a Grammy two days ago.”

Rodrigo won three in total, in fact, including Best New Artist, capping a 15-month stretch. But despite all the praise she had received, due to the pandemic, she had yet to perform in front of a room of thousands of adoring fans who had come to see only her.

This loud, cathartic party on the road was a manageable sized affair. Every “Sour” song and a few covers, all in just under an hour. Minimal staging, just gymnastics bleachers on either side of the stage and a disco ball looming overhead. And while his hits probably could have filled arenas, Rodrigo starts with a more subdued audience.

On several occasions, she showed how colossal her intimate songs could be, such as her solo acoustic guitar turn on a mix of “Enough for You” and “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back”, and on the reluctant “Favorite Crime”. She was just as convincing when she let loose, like on the raised middle finger “Good 4 U”. The gory, flashy “traitor” was alternately silent in a cafe and explosive in an arena, and equally persuasive in both modes.

Rodrigo was backed by a roaring all-female band, which gave his songs a palpable stickiness: “Happier” was rendered as the theme of a tragic ball, and “Hope Ur OK”, a wistful thematic aberration on the album. , was in a nagging mood. , immediately triggering thousands of people to throw lit cell phones into the air.

With not even a full year of hindsight, “Sour” looks even more like a supernova. To some extent, his lines are already being felt – there’s an emerging class of young singer-songwriters, many with a dose of TikTok virality, in the Rodrigo mold, including Lauren Spencer-Smith, Gayle and Gracie Abrams, who is the opening act for this tour. (Rodrigo said the influence also went the other way, noting that the tearful driving soundtrack she spoke so vividly about in “Driver’s License” was “I miss you, I’m sorry” d ‘Abrams.)

Rodrigo’s juggling between puckish, punkish and beatific was reflected in the 90s preshow soundtrack: Michelle Branch’s ‘Everywhere’, Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal’, Breeders’ ‘Cannonball’, Cardigans’ ‘Lovefool’ (though the biggest crowd reactions, by far, were for the repeat plays of One Direction’s “Olivia,” which came out when Rodrigo was 12). And it was there in her outfit choices, too: first, plaid bondage pants paired with a black mesh top, and later, a sparkly dress paired with chunky combat boots. (“Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 U,” the concert film released last month, uses footage from the first time Rodrigo recorded a “Drivers License” demo — she wears safety pin earrings.)

Its open claim to a range of styles has already sparked a degree of tension, even resentment. Courtney Love has trolled Rodrigo over alleged album cover similarities for “Sour” and Hole’s “Live Through This.” And two songs on “Sour” now include additional songwriting credits: Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) on “Deja Vu,” and Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Josh Farro on “Good 4 U.” . Imagine paying a thoughtful tribute only to find those you’ve long admired from afar soar like vultures determined to protect their shrinking tongue of land.

During this show, she interpreted two scholarly covers: “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne, who, from the start of her career, covered her pop instincts with a punk aesthetic, and “Seether” by Veruca Salt, a mainstay from alt-rock adjacent to grunge that was the only time Rodrigo appeared out of his depth, his furious vocals unable to cut through the band’s abandonment.

Now that the live music industry is getting back on its feet, Rodrigo can finally enjoy some of the fun aspects of stardom. First, the unpredictable crackle of the live performance: Not every call-and-response moment went perfectly, but Rodrigo seemed amused by the missed cues. There’s fan adoration that she’s now a proxy best friend: ‘Don’t text her,’ Rodrigo warned a young woman holding a sign asking for romantic advice. And there’s the joy of finally, truly breaking the restrictive grin of childhood stardom: In front of me, a mother tried in vain to cover her daughter’s ears every time Rodrigo landed at the cursed part of “Permis de drive” and every young woman in the room shouted.

For most of the night, Rodrigo was either sitting or running, but by the end of the show, she looked more at ease. At the first chorus of “Deja Vu”, she lay down on the piano and sang to the sky. And just as “Good 4 U”, the last song of the evening, was about to end, she ran over to the drums and started banging a cymbal, a taste of all the freedoms to come. .

Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour Tour runs through May 27; oliviarodrigo.com/tour.

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