THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LIZZO: JULY 8TH @ FESTSAAL KREUZBERG IN REVIEW

We are waiting, unapologetically loud, decked out in glitter. To my left and enviably closer to the stage, a woman is holding up a large piece of cardboard that in block letters reads, “100% that bitch!” in bright, bold colors.

It seems almost political, a proud assertion in permanent marker equally suited for a protest. This kind of demonstration is exactly what Lizzo and her devoted fans are all about, and I am completely Here For It. The cardboard sign is, of course, a reference to one of the opening lines of Lizzo’s chart-topping hits, “Truth Hurts”, which declares “I just took a DNA test/ Turns out, I’m 100% that bitch”.

Finally, stepping onstage in a red bodysuit to grace an already screaming audience, she opened her set with “Cuz I Love You”, the tour’s title track whose composition showcases her rapping talent and soulful vocals to goosebumps-giving gospel perfection. Lizzo promised, as she raised her hands up and invited us to clap and stomp with her, that she’d take us to church. She did not disappoint us. In fact, if I hadn’t already been a convert to the cult of dedicated Lizzbians, I’d have become a believer by the second number (fittingly titled “Worship”), as her singlet-wearing backup dancers, the “Big Grrrls”, came out as a choir.

As a performer, she’s a powerhouse. It’s not just that she’s charismatic and hilarious, at one point adopting a fake British accent in the style of Sir David Attenborough while comparing a journey of self-discovery to a nature documentary. Nor is it that her music often defies genre and expectations, redefines norms. Even songs that follow a conventional structure are reinvented live: a chorus is a thesis, a bridge a re-affirmation of that message.

No, one of the most remarkable things about Lizzo is her candor and her brutal acknowledgment of how much work it is to love yourself. It’s easy to preach ‘self-love’ and ‘self-care’ as you shoot to stardom and icon status. Things seem to be much easier up there. But in the days leading up to Monday’s performance, the multi-hyphenate artist –– rapper, singer, classically trained flautist –– posted on social media that, despite celebrating the climb of “Truth Hurts” to #6 on Billboard charts, she still gets hit with waves of depression.

Lizzo is a body-positive feminist who refuses to play victim, who refuses to reduce herself to anything less to make others more comfortable. But it’s not just about asserting her own space. The woman is a vocal ally, to LGBTQIA+ folks, to other people of color, to other self-proclaimed “Big Grrrls” and anyone else who is struggling with self-acceptance in a world that tries relentlessly to stamp our identities into boxes and give us limited conditions in which we are allowed to be our authentic selves.

She had her audience rapt in laughter, in tears, in dancing. Other set highlights include “Jerome”, a baring ballad to a f*ckboi, and “Tempo”, a collaboration with Missy Elliott to pick the pace back up. Then, towards the end of her set, before performing “Soulmate” – my favorite song: a New Orleans bounce-infused anthem that both throws shade on Gemini men (haven’t we all been there?) and gives me permission to order extra fries with that – she separates the audience down the aisle to assign us harmonies for a call-and-response bridge section; once again, we are back in church. She reminds us that we are enough, that we are beautiful.

She repeats that no romantic partner or label can either define or complete us. I look to my left as the holder of the “100% that bitch” sign jumps up and down and see the words bouncing with stronger emphasis than before. Exactly, it agrees. We are already 100% ourselves, 100% whole. Lizzo gleams with joy as we sing her words back to her. We all need to be reminded of our own strength – no matter whether we are the preacher or the congregation.

Festsaal Kreuzberg is likely the smallest venue she’ll play again; her stardom has already outgrown the intimate space and its adjoined Biergarten. In the last few months alone, Lizzo has performed at Coachella and Glastonbury, she has headlined Pride in two cities, and has performed at the BET Awards and the MTV Movie & TV Awards. This is, without a doubt, the Year of Lizzo, and we are all just lucky to be living in it, to catch any glimpse of her, sending messages of radical positivity and shining under purple spotlights.

 

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