Part performer, part life coach, Melissa “Lizzo” Jefferson was preaching the radical power of self-love long before it was in fashion. A decade on from her debut, the multiple Grammy-winner has now firmly infiltrated the mainstream with her agenda, influencing millions with her body-positive bangers.
Finishing up her European tour at the O2 Arena last night, the US singer-songwriter remained resolute in her mission to uplift and empower. Supported by an all-female backing band and the plus-size dance troupe she recruited on her Emmy-winning Amazon series Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, she delivered a set of relentlessly joyous disco-pop regularly interspersed with motivational speeches, both live and pre-recorded.
Subtle it wasn’t, and by the third time she’d told the crowd they were beautiful, more cynical audience members might have been forgiven for rolling their eyes. That it didn’t occur to those in attendence last night is testament to Lizzo’s immense charisma and the environment of pure fun she fostered.
The Eighties-inspired 2 Be Loved (Am I Ready) came complete with aerobics-style choreography, and Soulmate saw her twerking in blue diamante to bars delivered by her DJ, Sophia Eris. There were Chaka Khan and Lauryn Hill covers, featuring Lizzo’s powerhouse vocals embellished by exquisite harmonies from backing vocalists Little Bigs. During Coldplay she solo-ed on Sasha Flute (a flute that has its own Instagram account), while Naked saw her underscoring a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, projecting “My body my choice,” onto her flesh-coloured catsuit.
Interestingly, the night’s most powerful moments arrived when the music stopped. Moved to tears at the end of Special, she told the audience, “I’m milking this,” and enjoyed an arena-wide ovation that steadily grew in intensity. Then, following a barnstorming rendition of Truth Hurts, she spent upwards of eight minutes complimenting audience members on their outfits, before autographing a woman’s breast to provide a template for a tattoo.
This overwhelming atmosphere of love and acceptance more than made up for any of the less inspiring material from her latest LP, and succeeded in elevating Lizzo-classics like Juice and Cuz I Love You to another level entirely.
Which all augurs extremely well for this summer’s co-headline slot at Glastonbury. Because if performances like these prove anything, it’s that a good Lizzo show ranks up there with the very best of life’s natural highs.