SZA unmistakably embodies the future of R&B — her “SOS Tour” serves as evidence of her innate ability to transform an album into art.
For the sixth show of her “SOS Tour” at Boston’s TD Garden on Feb. 28, SZA brought her acclaimed second studio album of the same name to life. The St. Louis native’s recent album has amassed chart-topping success since its release on Dec. 9, debuting as No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for seven consecutive weeks, in addition to three additional weeks in late February. SZA, along with winning Billboard’s Woman of Year, is one of eight artists to ever have an album at No. 1 for ten weeks and currently holds the most weeks at No. 1 for a female artist in nearly seven years.
The SOS tour brings listeners along a voyage of SZA’s relationship with self acceptance, heartbreak, and love. Following the natural ebbs and flows of the waves that adorn her album cover, SZA’s sound is dynamic and complex. She expands the boundaries of traditional R&B albums, incorporating different genres and displaying an openness to experiment and explore. This approach also transforms her album into a performance to be remembered.
Immersing the Garden in flowing, blue waves of light, SZA began the show stunning the audience, projecting a captivating self portrait amongst a vast ocean to perfectly accompany her melodic vocals to “PSA.” SZA, by plunging into the ocean around her mere moments after the concert began, cemented an air of electricity and excitement that didn’t leave the stadium until her last number.
The production design was highlighted by the nautical theme and maritime aesthetic of “SOS,” allowing each song to draw fans into the enthralling visuals. Simply put, SZA had control of her audience like no other.
For the next track, SZA emerged from the ocean singing “Seek & Destroy” on top of a rusty sailboat. Despite the set’s seemingly dark aesthetic, the Garden never felt so lively. As SZA sang, she accompanied her rhythmic melody to an eye-catching sequence of smooth dancing and swaying, highlighting both the calming nature of her album and the talent of her notably diverse crew of dancers.
Continuing her galvanizing start, SZA never remained stagnant, ensuring that each act was as lively as the last. SZA’s dedication to maintaining an exhilarating momentum was epitomized in her performance — albeit in a nontraditional fashion — of “Smoking on My Ex Pack.” Despite needing an outfit change, SZA never left the audience’s line of sight; instead, as her team changed her clothes backstage, she could still be seen on a screen hitting each lyric of the song. SZA’s stunning look in the grayscale camera filter and her unique backstage performance added a phenomenally dynamic contrast to her other songs that exceeded expectations.
From her setlist, two songs stand out amongst the rest: “Kill Bill” and “Good Days.” “Kill Bill,” being one of the most popular songs SZA has released to date, was phenomenal on stage. While singing the lyrics “I might kill my ex,” SZA approached the stage using the chained mace weapon from the film “Kill Bill Volume:1” to attack the figures behind her. SZA, most literally, packed the biggest punch of the night to form the excellent display of pain and defensiveness that brought her violent lyrics to life. With the screen behind her slowly filling with blood, her excellently crafted choreography meshed together with the setting to create an eye-catching and descriptive story of the meaning behind “Kill Bill.”
SZA’s artistic expressions did not wane for her closing song. “Good Days” painted a compelling portrait of the beauty of SZA’s lyrics through the most impressive visuals of the night. An ever-changing, intergalactic sunset created the stunning background to SZA sitting on the diving board from her performance of the first song. The full-circle ending gave a fulfilling close to the non-stop night.
From reminiscent additions to the setlist, such as “Kiss Me More” and “All the Stars,” to serenading the audience while floating around the stadium on a boat, SZA’s adept performance was an unforgettable voyage through her album and a meaningful glimpse into the emotions tied to each song.
When speaking about the meaningfulness of her tour, SZA talked about being grateful for her successes and the involvement that embracing love has in her life and in the lives of others.
“The love that we have for ourselves and that we pour out to each other is what makes all the difference.”