SZA Live at London’s O2 Arena
When the lights went down at London’s O2 Arena, and SZA appeared as on her album artwork performing PSA as part of the opening of her hour-and-a-half-long show as part of her SOS world tour.
Audiences knew what they were in store for but didn’t quite know what to expect.. However, throughout the night, complete with strong visuals, lighting, costume changes, a life-size boat which took up most of the space on stage, a floating lifeboat, and a setlist that delivered to the max. The R&B songstress came to deliver an exceptional show.
It was no surprise to me that SZA would deliver in the way she did, and the show was evidence of the growth that has occurred throughout the past couple of years. The last time SZA took the stage in the UK was her headline slot at last year’s Wireless Festival, which was a celebration of her album Ctrl that her London and UK fans hadn’t previously experienced since her opening slot for Bryson Tiller at Hammersmith’s Evetium Apollo. In the years that have passed since then and bringing a four-night sold-out show to The O2, it is a celebration of her quality and artistic ability and how much it is grown since then.
The show combined her two studio albums, Ctrl & SOS, and a few of her featured singles, including All The Stars by Kendrick Lamar and Kiss Me More by Doja Cat. The celebration between these two bodies of work went beyond just singing into a crowd and having them bring it back to you. With her band, who had their instruments on and in tune from start to finish as well as her dancers, that supported her on stage without any moves out of place, SZA’s mic and vocals were switched on and kept going throughout the night.
The narrative of the show tied in with the visuals, and the music followed a boat travelling through the ocean and the journey of being lost at sea before undergoing a shipwreck and search rescue mission before ending up on a calm and sunny visual scape. This, paired with various sonic moments and the various visual changes, could be metaphors for the journey that SZA herself has taken throughout this album and its themes in the links to a relationship and the various moments that one experiences on the album.
With various moments on the show throughout the night, standouts included the appearance of collaborator Travis Scott who came out for his verses on both Love Galore and Open Arms and even an appearance on Low. Other moments included the inclusion of Normal Girl to the setlist, especially for the UK crowd, as mentioned by SZA on Twitter to her UK fans “UK I heard ur cries and added normal girl lol”. F2F received a high energy response which matched its energy on the song, as well as Smokin On My Ex which came in the form of a visual interlude on screen. Of course, the fan favourite Kill Bill, had everybody singing at the top of their lungs, “I just killed my ex” whether or not they can relate.
The moment of floating across the O2 on a lifeboat whilst giving her Ctrl opening number Supermodel its time to shine before going into Special was another standout. Not to mention the high emotions of Nobody Gets Me, which had the O2 lit up with phones galore.
Overall Solana delivered a show that was quality from start to finish. Coming out of a space where all eyes have been on her to deliver a strong follow-up to her debut Ctrl this show was a demonstration of why SZA’s relatable, somewhat toxic, self-sabotaging sound will always have an audience between fans alike and why she will always feel like that girl you feel experiences those feelings so well.
Follow SZA via @sza
Words by Seneo Mwamba
Photography Pedro Becerra