SZA’s S.O.S. Tour 2023
Feb 22, 2023
Contemporary R&B artist, Solána Imani Rowe, better known as SZA, performed the second concert of her first arena tour, “S.O.S. North American Tour”, at United Center on Wednesday, Feb. 22. She was accompanied by R&B singer-songwriter Omar Apollo.
SZA’s second album, “S.O.S.”, was released on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. Since the album was released, it has reigned on the Billboard 200 chart with the No. 1 spot. The album includes trending songs like “Kill Bill”, “Low” and “Nobody Gets Me”, with features from popular artists like Travis Scott, Don Toliver and Phoebe Bridgers.
The concert opened at 8 P.M. with Apollo. He sang 11 songs, which totaled about 45 minutes for his set. Although Apollo was not well-known among the crowd, his songs did not disappoint. Apollo sang “Useless”, “Killing Me”, “Endlessly”, new release “3 Boys”, “Petrified,” “Invincible,” featuring Daniel Caesar, “Tamagotchi,” “Kamikaze,” “Want U Around,” “Evergreen” and “Go Away”, filled with bright neon set-ups around him. Apollo’s energy pulsated throughout the entire arena. It was clear he was having fun with his performance and the crowd gave back the same spirit.
After Apollo performed, the sold-out arena anxiously waited for SZA to begin. I was getting frustrated while waiting, but it was definitely worth it. SZA’s performance felt unreal, and it was an experience like no other.
SZA opened with an unreleased song called “PSA”. Filled with lots of harmonizing mixed with her fast-paced singing, the performance felt hypnotic. Maybe even angelic. I can’t think of any better way she could have opened. She began by recreating her album cover, with her wearing the same outfit, sitting on a ledge surrounded by the ocean. Towards the end, a screen lowered to cover SZA. A visual of the ocean was playing as the screen lowered, which surrounded a shadow of her that jumped into the water as the song ended. The song then faded into the next, “Seek & Destroy.”
Following “Seek & Destroy,” were songs “Notice Me.” and “Conceited.” SZA performed on a ship-like structure, with lights creating the look of wooden flooring on a boat. After those two, she sang the songs “Love Galore” and “Broken Clocks” from her first studio album, “Ctrl”, which was released in 2017. Up until then, I hadn’t really listened to any of SZA’s songs before “S.O.S”, but listening to her older songs definitely expanded my interest in her music.
After the first six songs, SZA transitioned into a darker visual, where she was surrounded by black, gray and white lights that made her look like she was below the deck of a ship. She also changed into a black bodysuit. During this scene, she sang “Forgiveless,” “Used” and a cover of Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady.” She ended with hot pink lights around her, which dimmed black as she ended with “Blind.”
Listening to her go out with “Blind” live amazed me. I was so impressed with her voice when I listened to it for the first time on Spotify, and hearing her hit it the same way in person shocked me. Most singers don’t sing the same way they do in the studio, but SZA’s not like most artists.
With a blue, galaxy-like visual behind her, SZA sang “Shirt” and “Too Late”, while performing with three backup dancers alongside her. I was in awe of the way she performed. She knew how to dance while singing, and not sound tired from it. After the two songs, SZA left the stage with a live video of her getting ready backstage for the next part of the show while singing “Smoking on my Ex Pack.”
The ship made a reappearance, but this time on a real prop. SZA performed “All The Stars,” “Prom,” “Garden” and “F2F” on top of the ship deck. She got off the ship and back onto the stage when she sang “Drew Barrymore,” “Doves In The Wind” and “Low.” Visuals of the boat passing through scenery while sailing played and flashing neon lights grew brighter as the sequence went on. “Low” ended off this section, with blaring green and blue lights flashing around the arena. I felt the energy raving through the crowd. I could also feel myself losing my voice.
SZA used “Open Arms,” as an interlude into the next scene. This was really the only thing I was unhappy with, as “Open Arms” is one of my favorite songs from the album. I was disappointed that Travis Scott’s verse wasn’t included for me to sing along to. However, what she was preparing for completely made up for it. SZA began setting up for my favorite song on the album, “Nobody Gets Me”, which involved her getting onto an inflatable raft that lifted her into the air. During preparation, she sang snippets of “Supermodel” and “Special,” which seamlessly transitioned into each other. When she reached the top of the venue, blue lights laid flat to make her look like she was floating on water as she threw flower petals into the audience. She wore a yellow ball gown. The crowd and I shamelessly sang our hearts out with SZA, making it my favorite performance from the concert. Looking back on TikToks of “Nobody Gets Me,” it’s surreal to me how everyone in the arena was singing along with her. There were a few parts where the crowd was singing louder than her.
When SZA came back onto land, she reopened with “Gone Girl.” She also sang “SOS,” “Kiss Me More,” “Love Language” and “Snooze.” SZA took a simpler route with visuals, with neon blue, green and purple lights behind her as she pranced around the stage. Then she went in a completely different direction with arguably her most popular song, “Kill Bill”. Switching from familiar cool-toned colored lights, SZA switched it up with deep red lights behind her. The red lighting made her look like a shadow on the stage, adding dramatic effect to her performance. She also had back up dancers running around behind her dressed up as bugs.
Her final three songs were “I Hate U,” “The Weekend” and “Good Days.” In the first two songs, she stood on the stage with her centered on the live screen. She had darker visuals, with a scene of a purple waterfall behind her. I already had an idea of what the setlist was, so hearing “The Weekend,” saddened me because I didn’t want the night to end. The transition between “The Weekend” and “Good Days” was completely unexpected. She switched from a simpler visual to a beautiful sunrise over the water behind her. Just like at the beginning of the concert, SZA sat back up on the ledge, but this time she was wearing a bright red ball gown. The sunrise turned into a blue starry night at the end. And to make the moment full circle, the screen lowered to cover SZA again with the words “The End” written on it. I felt so happy with how the concert went. I bought the tickets way back at the beginning of December, and all the anticipation was worthwhile.
The lights came back on and people started getting out of their seats to leave. Unexpectedly, “Low,” started playing again with a teaser of the music video appearing on the screen. I was so confused. Then SZA came back onto the stage and said a brief speech to the audience.
“I just really can’t say thank you enough. Because it’s not lost on me. Your time, your attention, the fact that you paid to come here. I really hope you had a good time, I really love you. I really do,” SZA said.
Her thank you speech to us sealed the deal for me. I feel like most artists just perform and leave, but her coming back out after a tiring and non-stop performance just to say thank you meant everything to me. At that moment, I was so ready to buy another ticket for a later date.
If you have a chance to go see SZA on tour, I highly recommend you go! She’s an amazing performer and the concert is definitely worth the money. I have no doubt I’ll be seeing her again when she comes back to Chicago.