Shortly after releasing her highly anticipated third album “SOS,” singer/songwriter SZA announced her 2023 tour. This past Saturday, SZA performed her first show in New York City at Madison Square Garden.
R&B artist Omar Apollo was the opening act of the evening. He brought the energy up and got the show started with his hit song “Useless” from his 2020 album “Apolonio.” The middle of his set included some more melodic emotional songs like “Petrified” and “Invincible” from his most recent album “Ivory.” Apollo had everyone dancing with his sexy song “Tamagotchi,” and then sang the song that everyone was waiting for, “Evergreen.” The song gained popularity on the app TikTok and now has over 177 million streams on Spotify. Apollo gained his first entry on the Billboard Top 100 with “Evergreen” and later, at the 65th Grammy Awards, he was nominated for the Best New Artist award. He ended with “Go Away,” an upbeat song showcasing Apollo’s crazy vocal range and getting the crowd ready for SZA.
SZA opened with her unreleased song PZA. The set opened revealing SZA sitting on a diving board with projected waves in the background, mimicking the “SOS” album cover inspired by a photo of Princess Diana shortly before her death. SZA said she felt drawn to the feeling of isolation the picture conveyed.
The set closed and the audience screamed with excitement as the phrase “SOS Tour” was projected onto the stage. SZA was revealed yet again, this time on an ocean dock with her four backup dancers. Going down memory lane, she sang some songs from her sophomore album “Ctrl.” The crowd went wild with the opening notes to “Love Galore” and “Broken Clocks,” some of the most popular songs off the album.
SZA then announced she was going to perform a song she’s never sung before on her previous eight “SOS” shows. By popular demand, she sang “Ghost in The Machine” — but that wasn’t the end of the surprise. The featured artist on the song, indie folk singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, walked on stage for her verse and sang alongside SZA in one of the most exciting moments of the show. They shared a quick hug and Bridgers bowed to SZA before she waved goodbye to the audience.
Bridgers wasn’t the end of the special guests. SZA started covering “I Do” by Cardi B, when she was joined by none other than the rapper herself. They performed another song together, “Tomorrow 2,” a GloRilla song featuring Cardi B.
SZA ended the first act with her song “Shirt,” a fan favorite which gained popularity on TikTok before it was even released on streaming platforms. The camera followed SZA as she went backstage for some touch ups and a wardrobe change while performing “Smoking on My Ex Pack.”
Her second act opened with her standing on a ship labeled “Ctrl Fishing Co.” She started with “All The Stars,” which she originally recorded with rapper Kendrick Lamar for the Marvel movie “Black Panther.” She continued with some songs off her sophomore album like “Drew Barrymore,” “Garden” and “Doves in the Wind,” another song with Lamar. SZA’s dancers brought up the energy with “Low” while her ship traveled through a “windy storm.”
Suddenly, on the other side of the venue, a lighthouse emerged from the ground. Its lights swirled around the audience as they waited in anticipation for SZA to reappear. Sure enough she came back, this time on a tiny inflatable boat that soared above the audience. In the spirit of this surreal voyage, she sang some of her more melodic sad songs like “Special.” As the boat turned around and headed back to land, she performed “Gone Girl.”
Her last set of songs included fan favorites like “I Hate You” and “The Weekend” while an underwater scene of fish and coral was projected behind her. She also performed her most streamed song on Spotify, “Kill Bill.” She mimicked sword fighting moves in front of her bright red set in reference to the Quentin Tarantino film.
Of course, Madison Square Garden couldn’t get enough of SZA, so she came out one more time on a hopeful note with “Good Days.” She wore a beautiful layered yellow dress and sat on the same diving board she started on. This time the sun set over the water and ended with a star-studded sky reading “The End.” After the lights came back on, SZA thanked the audience and expressed her love and gratitude, waving goodbye one last time, leaving the crowd with a magical aquatic experience.