Friday, Nov. 3, 2023 | 2 a.m.
From the moment she tossed her mic into the ocean and followed it into the murky waters below from a suspended plank, singer-songwriter SZA had the audience at T-Mobile Arena in her hands.
OK, let’s be honest: Maybe she had her adoring legions in her hands even before she took the stage Saturday for the Las Vegas stop of her “SOS” tour. And maybe the dive into the
T-Mobile “ocean” was a grand illusion created with the help of film and some really talented special effects people.
Be that the case, the opening — mimicking the scene portrayed on SZA’s latest album, “SOS,” set the tone for a highly entertaining night.
Over the course of about an hour and 40 minutes, the St. Louis-born and New Jersey-raised singer-songwriter kept her audience captivated and sated with a production pleasing to both the ears and eyes.
The show was built around a nautical theme, split into several acts with sets that included the deck of a ship on the waterfront, the ship’s engine room, and stormy seas. The production was first class — no tourist class here — at times even reminiscent of a Broadway show the way it glided along effortlessly.
Joined at times by a troupe of four dancers and backed by guitarist Ari O’Neal, drummer Payge Cooper and bassist Declan Meirs, SZA turned in a masterly performance packed with more than 30 songs from her two albums and covers of songs she made famous with other artists.
Her powerful voice, filled with emotions, had fans on their feet and singing along through most of the night.
“Kiss Me More,” a song that won her and Doja Cat a Grammy in 2022 for Best Pop Duo, and the familiar “All the Stars,” a duet SZA and Kendrick Lamar performed for the “Black Panther” movie soundtrack, were among audience favorites.
Among other highlights occurred when SZA climbed into a lifeboat that “sailed” above the T-Mobile floor on a sea of blue laser lights. The effect was almost as tantalizing as the songs she sang from the lifeboat: “Open Arms,” “Nobody Gets Me,” “Supermodel” and “Gone Girl.”
Nothing, however, lit up the crowd like SZA did when she burst into her first No. 1 hit, “Kill Bill.”
The song, the tale of a spurned lover who “might kill my ex,” and who still loves him but would “rather be in jail than alone,” has spent 46 weeks on the Billboard charts, including a record 21 weeks atop the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop category, since its release last December.
The love, apparently, isn’t shared by the singer who told The Wall Street Journal that the song “took no thought and came out of my mouth in five seconds.”
So it goes.
But for SZA (real Solána Imani Rowe) it’s fuel for her fans, and Saturday’s concert showed that, despite the title of her latest album, the singer’s career is in anything but distress.
jo[email protected] / 702-259-4186 / @newspapereditor