St. Catherine University couldn’t have found a more appropriate artist to kick off its 2017 Women of Substance Festival on Friday in St. Paul.
Lizzo, the Minneapolis singer/rapper, delivered a message of substance in song and in conversation. Not only did she exude self-confidence, she preached it and the crowd at the O’Shaughnessy at St. Kate’s drank it up like a cure-all elixir for these hard times.
In her first headline appearance at a Twin Cities concert hall, Lizzo, 28, commanded the stage like the superstar next door. She talked about loving yourself, being proud of your size, skin color, age and other attributes that make you you. And then she sang “My Skin,” a locally beloved soul-jazz reflection on self-pride that gained her national attention.
Lizzo spoke about feminism and girl power, without using that phrase, and demonstrated what she meant by bringing out her all-female staff to dance and party with her. (She even had the entire auditorium sing “Happy Birthday” to her staffer Quinn.)
Chatty but not long-winded, Lizzo talked a bit about her background (born in Detroit, reared in Houston, moved to Minneapolis and performed in several groups before going solo; she didn’t mention hosting a show on MTV). She dedicated one song to Vice President Mike Pence and set up her biggest hit by opening up about her own life.
She explained that when she wrote and recorded 2016’s “Good as Hell” she was actually in a good space. But now, she’s in a situation where she, too, has to move on from a bad relationship. So when she tore into such lines as “if he don’t love you anymore/just walk your fine ass out the door,” they rang with new-found conviction.
Lizzo’s love of self and her fellow performers (her DJ Sophia Eris, two dancers dubbed the Big Girls and impressive opening act Dizzy Fae) was real and reassuring.
Her message and music clearly resonated with the St. Kate’s crowd, which included women and men of various ages, orientations, skin colors and creative hair colors. The fans danced all night (a rarity at a St. Kate’s concert), sang along at times and rallied around Lizzo as if she were part presidential candidate, part motivational speaker and part Beyonce.
Lizzo’s conviction and sense of purpose combined with her natural and unpretentious manner transformed her 75-minute performance into an exciting, invigorating and meaningful evening. Truly a woman of substance and a whole lot more.