Most performers would save big, torchy songs — those tour de forces of emotion that are punctuated by high notes and pauses where the audience works itself into a frenzy — for the end of their sets. But Lizzo isn’t most performers. The singer-rapper-flautist-motivational speaker opened her show on Wednesday night at House of Blues with “Cuz I Love You,” the title song of her recently released major-label debut. She leaned fully into it, showing off her vocal power and range, and the crowd was right there with her from the moment she went onstage, singing along, giving her extended ovations, and showering her with affection.
As Lizzo, her longtime friend and DJ-rapper Sophia Eres, her backup dancers (the “Big Girls”), and her Boston audience proved over and over again, a Lizzo show is part funk-pop concert, part church service, part aerobics class — and all love. She embraces a lift-all-boats style of self-affirmation that’s as infectious as the Betty Davis-echoing groove of “Crybaby” and the raucous chorus of “Soulmate,” a bravado that doesn’t merely proclaim “I’m amazing,” but also encourages everyone within earshot to take the same leap of faith.
Lizzo’s music being precisely calibrated soul-pop that invites call-and-response interludes and constant movement helps those messages land even harder. “Cuz I Love You,” which came out in April, is a giddy soul-pop record that’s ideal for enthusiastic getting-ready-for-the-world listening, perhaps with a hairbrush being used as a surrogate microphone; “Like A Girl” flips that schoolyard insult into a point of pride over vampy keyboards; “Tempo,” a collaboration with hip-hop weirdo supreme Missy Elliott, honors women of size over ice-covered synths; “Boys” indulges Lizzo’s admiration for the opposite sex over scanty cowbell and the occasional flinty guitar riff. On Wednesday night, the crowd’s at-home practice was evident not just on Lizzo’s recent songs but on her older ones, like the stomping “Fitness” and the sputtering “Phone.”
Over the course of two hours, she proved herself to be a pop force suited to the social media age, opening up about her depressive spells, coaxing the crowd to repeat self-love affirmations, and issuing broadsides against invasive politicians between songs where she flaunted her vocal range, paid homage to Minneapolis funk and New Orleans bounce, and showed off her flute skills. (Her playing is so storied, one audience member brought an offering of a replica flute to the show — and was ushered onstage for a tete-a-tete.) And she invited everyone to her party; the music and her overwhelming charisma acted like a force field of self-affirmation that lasted until the very end. After her final song, the shimmery robo-funk throwback “Juice,” she declared, “If you can love me, you can love yourself.” It was a send-off that showcased Lizzo’s self-confidence — of course you love me; why else are you here? — but flipped it back on the crowd, sending each attendee onto Landsdowne Street on a cloud.
With Tayla Parx
At House of Blues, WednesdayMaura Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.