Review: Hip-hop artist Lizzo at the 9:30 Club

Lizzo. (Courtesy of the artist)
Lizzo. (Courtesy of the artist)

WASHINGTON, November 21, 2014 – At least in theory, the kind of energy hip-hop artists during their performances makes them the ideal opening acts for any sort of headliner. That is, as long as they’re on board with the natural process of a live show.

At the 9:30 Club recently, Lizzo was opening for Clean Bandit – an act she has worked with prior to this tour. At first glance, that seemed like an odd combination for a two-act show, although Clean Bandit was not the strangest group Lizzo could have been opening for.

At any rate, none of this really seems to faze Lizzo during her 9:30 Club performance. And, in fact, she embraced the approach. It’s possible the crowd that showed up to see the headliner isn’t normally Lizzo’s audience. But regardless of the audience divide, Lizzo tends to take everything as a challenge, and went about performing with her seemingly unlimited reserves providing the energy.

One of the most important aspects of a hip-hop show is that performers need a consistent pace throughout their show to keep the crowd pumped and focused throughout. A rapper could be an excellent lyricist, but totally lose an audience by haphazardly meandering through a set. This is why it’s so crucial for rappers to well-versed in how to hype a crowd, especially between songs.

This is where Lizzo really drives her portion of the show. She’s on stage for a little over a half an hour and doesn’t ever slow the action. She’s either rapping or conversing with the audience, rarely with much of a breather between these two activities. Her dynamic presence never really ends until she’s physically off the stage. While she might be exhausted after all of this, the same can’t be said for the audience, which remains pumped up for the second half of the evening.

Of course it’s not just her energy that carries her show because. That alone wouldn’t serve her well if she were simply bouncing around the stage without offering much in the way of substance. Additionally, she’s not a particularly complex lyricist most of the time.

Yet several of her songs actively encourage the audience to participate, punctuated occasionally by some serious verses, at least in terms word play if not content. Ultimately, she puts out deceptively simple content that still carries a punch when taken as a whole.

That seems to be the overall point of Lizzo’s set too. There are plenty of rappers who are niche performers, only specializing in a few areas. But that never appears to be Lizzo’s mission statement. It’s quite obvious from the start of her show that she is actively trying to reach as many people as she possibly can with lyrics, beats, and general antics involving members of the crowd.

There would be no point to her open style if she were to exclude someone or some group listening to or watching her on stage. It’s not really about “getting” what she’s doing. But that said, Lizzo wants everyone to get it because what’s the fun of the show if someone feels left out? Because of this, she does her best to make it happen.

Lizzo has such a huge personality that including everyone in on the fun just seems like a natural extension of it. She’s brash and up front about everything and is exactly the kind of person who keep talking – or in this case rapping – until she gets the desired effect she’s looking for.

Example: at one point during her performance here, she spent some time cajoling a male member of the audience to join her up on stage to twerk, instantly getting the audience enthusiastic about the stunt.

Using spontaneous tactics like this, by the end of the night she’ll get everyone into the right frame of mind to move on. It doesn’t matter if they’re kicking and screaming at the beginning of her set, because they’ll all be enjoying themselves by the time her show is over.

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