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SZA Concert Review

September 3rd, 2017
Uptown Theater - Kansas City, MO

SZA. Photo by Chase Smith.
Fans sat on the edge of their seats on Sunday night, waiting for SZA to take the stage at her sold out show. Any minor development, including instruments being tuned, elicited screams from dozens of elated attendees. One minute after 9:30 P.M., the TDE R&B star emerged, a to-go cup of tea in hand, ready to casually dazzle the Uptown Theater for 90 straight minutes.

Smino. Photo by Chase Smith.
SZA's critically acclaimed debut "Ctrl" grew her fanbase to the point where her Granada date sold out in one day, prompting the move to Uptown where it sold out again. The album also spawned her most successful single yet, "Love Galore," a hazy, psychedelic duet with Travis Scott that hasn't yet left radio rotation.

The concert tour of nearly every female R&B chart-topper is built to include choreographed dance numbers and a flashy stage production, but SZA is an artist that thrives on comfort rather than extravagance. Her outfit for the entirety of the show was a black sleeveless top and a pair of silky purple pants that billowed with every free-spirited hop she took. Early rehearsals for the tour easily could have taken place in her bedroom in front of a mirror, hairbrush in hand. Rather than being joined by a crew of backup dancers, a three-piece band sat behind her.

SZA publicly documented the excruciating wait for "Ctrl" to finally be released by her label, so it was no surprise that a majority of the set was dedicated to finally performing its songs live. The album's opener, "Supermodel," came first. The song's tender guitar intro created an incredible warmth that washed over the room and set a remarkably calming atmosphere for a show of its size.

One thing that disrupted this peace was the occasional presence of a sub-bass that rattled bones and distracted from SZA's vocal performance. These interruptions were few however and SZA's friendly banter always won the crowd back. Crowd participation wasn't demanded, but nearly every soul in the room echoed Kendrick Lamar's cries of "pussy!" during the otherwise mellow "Doves In The Wind." Longtime fans were rewarded with a small handful of tracks from the "Z" EP including "Child's Play" where SZA delivered Chance The Rapper's verse herself -- and with a much livelier flow than Chance's lackadaisical approach.
Ravyn Lenae. Photo by Chase Smith.

The Ctrl Tour is something that every Midwestern hip-hop fans can take pride in. While SZA doesn't really rep it, she was born in St. Louis before relocating to New Jersey as a child. The real Midwest love comes from the two opening acts accompanying her on a majority of the 50-date run.

Smino was born in raised in "The Lou" and proudly blasted a couple Nelly hits in the middle of his half-hour opening set. First, however, he careened onto the stage on an orange bicycle, perfectly matching his orange sweatsuit. Accompanied by a full band, Smino introduced Kansas City to his soulful mix of R&B and Midwest hip-hop. His style neighbors that of Chance The Rapper and other contemporary Chicago acts, but also possesses heavy influences from OutKast and other Southern artists making smooth tunes. "Anita" -- a single from his debut album "Blkswn" -- is an instant St. Louis classic that anyone can step to.

Ravyn Lenae is still a teenager, but the young Chicagoan put on as professional a performance as one can in 20 minutes. Her cloudy, glitchy R&B instrumentals are similar to the ones that SZA cut her teeth on, but Lenae also mixed in house rhythms perfect for moving to, which she made the audience pinky promise to do with her.

Full photo gallery here.

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