Despite the Grammys’ snub of rhythm and blues singer SZA, a line of concertgoers snaked around The Fillmore Silver Spring on Feb. 5 to see her take the stage. The sold-out show was a testament to the artistry of SZA’s debut album “Ctrl.” Despite a minimalistic set, SZA performed with electric energy, interacting with her devoted fan base while showcasing her sultry vocals.
In “Ctrl,” the New Jersey-raised artist shares her commitment to regular introspection with regard to past perspectives and experiences. The album serves as her diary, taking the audience through the range of emotions, from overjoyed and empowered to vulnerable and insecure, that come with relationships — especially nontraditional ones. “Ctrl” speaks to young people who are trying to understand themselves and induces nostalgia for older generations who have shared in SZA’s experiences.
Though the crowd was mostly younger, it was clear the concert was for everyone. With a simple set-up of just SZA, the band and a microphone, the focus of the attention was on her music, impressive vocals and her connection to her fans.
With just a few simple spotlights illuminating her figure, SZA opened the show with the first track off of “Ctrl,” “Supermodel” — a song that expresses the insecurities that come with being cheated on and the self-reflection required after cheating on someone else. The immediate dive into her insecurities and vulnerabilities had the audience roaring with excitement as she stunned with her live vocals and incredible range.
As the show went on, SZA prefaced most of her songs with the stories that inspired her to write them. Her rawness and vulnerability created a deep connection between her and the audience, which could easily relate to the thoughts, doubts and emotions she discussed.
While the connection remained intact throughout the entire concert, the stories prefacing “Drew Barrymore” and “Normal Girl” were particularly poignant and rocked the venue to its core, as was evidenced by the throngs of screaming fans feeding off the energy SZA injected into the performances.
She prefaced “Drew Barrymore” with the story of her disappointment of not being noticed by a boy at a party, an experience many people, especially college students, have shared. The song aims to liberate us from the idea that attention from others gives us value. At the Fillmore on Monday night, everyone in the crowd — from teens to adults — let loose, allowing themselves to be set free by SZA’s empowering lyrics.
Though SZA’s vocals on the album are already sharp and crispy, her live vocal range and delivery of not just “Drew Barrymore,” but of all her tracks, had the entire venue teeming with excitement. Already proven a talented lyricist and singer, on Feb. 5 SZA demonstrated she is also an outstanding performer.
The rawness and carefree, empowered attitude that embodies “Ctrl” came to life on Monday with SZA’s organic performance style and dancing. The lack of choreographed numbers created a natural, open and authentic vibe that allowed the audience to feel engaged.
Though the venue was filled to the brim, the warm colored spotlights, SZA’s soothing voice and the carefree dancing combined to form an intimate and inviting atmosphere.
SZA’s performance encapsulated all the elements that have thrust her into the mainstream. Without compromising her style, she delivered a concert that was awe-inspiring and entranced the audience with her flawless vocals, engaging stories, high energy and natural delivery.