New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: Olivia Rodrigo spills her ‘GUTS’ at MSG

The singer-songwriter’s “GUTS World Tour” radiated energy that made teenagers and 8-year-olds alike scream the ballads with the same fervor as the rock songs.
Eleanor Jacobs
Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS World Tour at Madison Square Garden. (Eleanor Jacobs for WSN)

The second show of Olivia Rodrigo’s four-night sold-out escapade in New York City found the streets outside Madison Square Garden packed with purple. Rodrigo took to MSG on April 5, 6, 8 and 9 with opener The Breeders. Alongside hits from her September sophomore album release of “GUTS,” she gave fans tastes of “SOUR” classics.

The setlist was laced with softer songs Rodrigo could sing from her piano bench like “drivers license,” and those best embodied through frenetic choreography like “ballad of a homeschooled girl.” She expertly created an environment built on dynamic and captivating movement. Rodrigo’s performance is compelling even when stripped down to a single spotlight, such as with “lacy.” She laments the poison of comparison against a stripped-back track, noting that “it takes over my life, I see you everywhere / The sweetest torture one could bear.”

Beyond Rodrigo herself, the performance of her background dancers proved to be a highlight of the concert. With seamless choreography and energy, they took the form of Rodrigo’s groveling exes or old idols through their movements; their performance was both vigorous and supplementary to the songs’ ambiances and meaning.

Between the dancers and coordinated visuals, the show emanated a sense of large-scale, arena-funded quality that made the show live up to its expectations. Rodrigo sings two of her softer ballads, “logical” and “enough for you,” from atop a glowing moon suspended in the stadium rafters, hovering up above the crowd. The structure floats slowly through the audience in time with the music, with luminous purple stars parting for her as she passes over fans.

What keeps the concert and music cohesive, however, is the personality and energy that Rodrigo brings to her role as entertainer. Taking dance breaks alongside her band and skipping across the stage in her platform boots, she engages every emotion characteristic of the teenage experience. The screen allowed fans to get a good view of action onstage from any seat in the arena, having taken camera perspective to an art form. One corner of the two-pronged stage even featured a glass floor, allowing for Rodrigo and her dancers to look downwards to a hidden camera within. Unique lateral shots from this box, as well as an overhead camera suspended over the stage, kept the show’s displays unique and current.

The New York leg of her tour also acted as an opportunity for Rodrigo to promote the deluxe edition of her album, “GUTS (spilled),” which was announced at a March 19 show in Chicago. Though the edition was released on March 22, of the five songs included in the extension, only “obsessed” made the setlist. The crowd sang along with the zeal of fresh memorization. Fans eagerly related to Rodrigo’s tale of fixation upon her boyfriend’s ex, noting that “And if you knew how much I looked at her pictures / You would think we’re best friends.” With black, red and white lighting, Rodrigo leaned into punk-rock influences with her performance, taking on a similar energy to that of her opener, The Breeders.

During the buildup to the explosive bridge of “all-american bitch,” Rodrigo implored her fans to let out a scream in her place at the song’s beat drop. When the culminating moment hit, all lights in the arena went out, and the air was pierced with the collective catharsis of thousands of fans, brought together by the stresses of life, love and youth.

This energy persisted even after Rodrigo’s exit and took a crescendo when she reappeared for an encore. Her final song of the evening, “get him back!,” was concluded with a kiss at the audience. Fans seem to see a relatable peer in Rodrigo, snapping Polaroid photos and exchanging cowgirl hats like longtime friends.

Having freshly turned 21, Rodrigo has a finger on the pulse of contemporary teenage joy and angst. Her vocals captivate the likes of not just girlhood, but adolescence and the unsteady ascent into adulthood. Her concert invited all from elementary schoolers standing on their chairs for a better view to college students screaming the deep-cut, often more provocative original lyrics of her songs. Critics have pointed out a lack of sonic development since her debut album, “SOUR,” but the artist’s two albums accumulated an emotional, energetic feel for her second tour. Perhaps they sound the same — the teenage years last a long time, though, and Rodrigo’s music and performances are here to pull fans through it.


Contact Eleanor Jacobs at [email protected].

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