For a few hours on a Tuesday night, Lizzo guided a nearly sold-out Fiserv Forum through therapy sessions, a mini pride parade and a birthday party.
When the 35-year old singer, rapper and icon emerges from the stage, the entire room turns to a collective scream. She sings, "Hi motherfucker, did you miss me?" and she gets her response with even more screaming and singing. As a former Midwestern-er herself, there's surely fans in the crowd who are doubling or tripling up on their Lizzo performances, having seen her in 2019 at The Sylvee or back at the Wisconsin State Fair in the same year. And even if it's not quite a hometown show, it must mean something to her considering that she begins wiping away tears after her second song, "2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)."
Our crowd is filled with women of all ages, a couple of parents, boyfriends, and even a drag queen or two. The Special Tour attracts the pop enthusiast with an open mind and a good sense of humor, and Lizzo makes it clear that it's a place where you're invited to love and be yourself. During her interludes, she's making us say affirmations, we're told to close our eyes and breathe for "Bad Bitch Meditation," and she even brings out a chaise lounge for a little bit of therapy during "Jerome," a song that sits much closer to soul than pop.
It's actually almost jarring to enter into such a pop-centric show straight after Latto's performance. Hailing from Atlanta, Latto has a distinctly Southern-rap sound, and judging from the crowd, it's a big unexpected when they know her best for her recent pop hits. She gives part of her time to her hypeman and DJ, DJ Von, before hitting the explicit, "Soufside." Even with a much harder sound that Lizzo, she brings heat to the stage before finalizing her set with the better-known, "Big Energy," which part of the crowd happily sings along to.
Even with a heavier hand in pop, Lizzo reminds us that she's versatile, ranging from her hip-hop Cardi B collab, "Rumors" to the soulful, "Naked" to a Lauryn Hill cover of "Doo Wop (That Thing)." She pulls us through different energy levels and storylines, starting with a burst of dancing before mellowing into songs about intimacy and heartbreak, then reminding us of her core statements with the self-love tracks from "Special" to "Everybody's Gay."
One of the most memorable bits from the night comes when she sings "Birthday Girl" and asks the audience if anyone is celebrating a birthday. A young person in a cowboy hat has all their friends pointing and screaming at them; Lizzo approaches their area and asks everyone to sing "Happy Birthday" to Jordan, which sets off another round of tears.
It's these moments--the interaction with the crowd, dawning a pride flag, throwing roses into the audience, pulling out her classic flute solos and giving a fan the spotlight to twerk for the cameras--where Lizzo feels like she should be playing for a room of four thousand, not seventeen-thousand; it's not to say that she isn't an icon (she certainly is), but it's this intimacy with her songwriting and the fan care that makes me want a smaller room where everyone can be closer. A smaller room might incite more energy too. The crowd is a bit stiller than I expected--maybe from the meditation or reserving some energy since it is a Tuesday night after all.
As the end of the night creeps near, Lizzo belts some of her biggest hits into the conclusion. We wait for less than a minute after her false outro, "Good As Hell," before her band and dancers reappear and the giant disco ball at the ceiling comes down. She brings out Sasha the Flute once more to end with "Juice" and "About Damn Time."
While the crowd rushes out, I hear comment after comment praising the performance. Fans adorned with glitter and pride rainbows smile from cheek to cheek, a young kid holds their hand over their heart, and Milwaukee sleeps with that warm glow that you can only get after a Lizzo gig.