Lizzo’s Twin Cities fans know just how much hard work she put in behind the scenes to get to where she is now. On Sunday, they finally got to see just how much sweat and energy she’s also investing on stage these days.
For her first local headlining concert in more than two years — and what a couple of whirlwind years it’s been — the ex-Minneapolitan hip-hop star did not just sing and rap about feeling good as hell. She exerted herself in a physically demanding and provocatively sexy way that proved she and her oft-cited self-esteem are indeed in great shape.
“I been sweating, doing calisthenics / booty vicious, mind your business,” she boomed three songs into her 85-minute set during “Fitness,” a 2018 single that foreshadowed the album and tour to come in 2019.
Prominently featuring a troupe of female dancers who worked it and twerked it even harder than the frontwoman, Sunday’s long-sold-out performance at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul embodied the positive body imagery and message of self-care heard throughout Lizzo’s new album, “Cuz I Love You,” which debuted in Billboard’s top 10 two weeks ago.
There was no question at show’s end who the “you” is in the record’s title, nor was there any doubt how much her quickly snowballing audience is in love with Lizzo, 31, and the empowerment she represents.
The 2,600 or so fans on hand Sunday seemed unusually worshipful from the get-go as she bellowed out the new album’s deep, slow-stirring, tension-building title track. But then when the beats and dancers kicked into overdrive for the second song, “Worship,” the vibe inside the Palace rapturously erupted.
That electric-church-like vibe carried over to Lizzo’s frequent between-song banter. She sounded a lot like a Baptist preacher from Houston (where the real-life Melissa Jefferson lived before moving to Minneapolis in 2011) as she set up meaningful but mean-grooving anthems such as “Scuse Me” and “Soulmate.”
“It’s very important to work on self-love every day, because the dark days are when you need it the most,” was one such monologue, as she also commiserated about falling ill just as her tour began last week.
More lightheartedly, she offered a theory about why she finally felt better once she landed back in Minnesota: “I needed to purify myself in the water of Lake Minnetonka.”
A more overt nod to Prince came before “Crybaby,” which had a Purply groove to it but also came with a shout-out to the late icon about his impact on her music.
“[Minneapolis] is the place I learned how to be an artist,” she said. “There’s something magical here that allows you to find the parts of you that are special and weird and turn that into your art.”
About the only thing that seemed odd (and disappointing) was that Lizzo didn’t treat the hometown crowd to at least one of her pre-2015 tunes, such as “Batches & Cookies,” but that was just another reminder she’s moving on from her Minneapolis days in various ways.
The energy was unflagging and relentless, both on stage and in the audience, building to a hard-bouncing delivery of “Tempo” — which sounds stronger in concert than it does on record — followed by a pre-encore singalong finale of “Good as Hell.” Showing off one of her weirdest trademarks, she busted out her virally beloved flute at the start of the encore and again at the end, when she jazzily tooted along to the groove in “Juice” to great effect.
Due back in town for two shows in October at the thrice-bigger Armory (both nights are already sold out), the Twin Cities expat will need marathon-like endurance to keep performing at this pace between now and then. But there’s clearly enough creative and commercial momentum in her career right now to carry her for many years to come.
Sunday’s set list:
1. Cuz I Love You
3. Water Me
5. Scuse Me
9. En Love
10. Truth Hurts
13. Like a Girl
15. Good as Hell
16. Coconut Oil