ACL Live Review: Lizzo

Aretha Franklin for a new generation

ACL underestimated Lizzo. After riding the wave of her monstrous hit, “Truth Hurts,” which still rides the Billboard Hot 100, one thing became crystal clear: the singer overwhelmed and outgrew her placement at the smaller Miller Lite stage Sunday night, performing to probably the biggest crowd the festival ever witnessed for a non-headlining act.

Photo by Jana Birchum

“Y’all know what the fuck I’m about then, right?” she inquired of her newly dubbed Lizzo choir. “Self love, body positivity, and about being 100% that bitch.”

Supported by dancers and a DJ, she transformed into a ringmaster of ceremonies, delivering a manifesto of self-empowerment that is the signed, sealed, and delivered creed of her third LP, April’s Cuz I Love You. Opening behind its title track, she matched up to it big brass honks, which surged with doo-wop bounce and bass. Melissa Viviane Jefferson bellowed from somewhere deep within her in a voice grounded corporeal and robust.

In one song, she proved her pledge to become the “Aretha Franklin for the 2018 Generation.”

This testament only solidified with “Jerome,” as she went into a vertiginous time warp, channeling deep resonance and woman scorned like old-school songstress Etta James. Lullaby melodies coalesced in her thunderous timbre, which electrified the massive assemblage stretching pretty much as far as the eye could see. Cell phone lights beamed from back by the Honda stage.

Born in Detroit but raised in Houston and Minneapolis, the 31-year-old performer gleaned Motown, R&B, Southern braggadocio, hip-hop, and purple Minneapolis funk. When “Tempo” began with the redolent guitar of Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” her set begged for a full band. No matter. Lizzo’s stage presence compensated as viral horn beats and tweaked electronics flared with self-empowerment spitfire.

“Slow songs, they for skinny hoes,” shouted the host.

The weird and genre-less “Boys” employed gospel organ only to veer a quick left turn into a “SexyBack” beat and crazed funk shuffles. In climactic twofer “Truth Hurts” and “Juice,” the former prompted sing-along reverie and the latter a four-on-floor dance party. Both featured Lizzo on her trusty flute as she twerked masterfully and aired out swift solo lines.

“I remember I’d be the one in the audience, looking at artists with these huge [festival] crowds,” she said with a smile while prepping her exit.

Lizzo’s day has arrived.


Sunday, Oct. 06, 7:00pm, Miller Lite stage

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Lizzo, ACL Fest 2019, Melissa Viviane Jefferson, Etta James, Prince

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