When ‘Drivers License’ was released at the very start of the year, it quickly turned Olivia Rodrigo into the biggest new thing in pop. Aching, dramatic and oh-so relatable, the piano-driven ballad racked up astronomical numbers online and – before you could say ‘one hit wonder’ – the likes of ‘Déjà vu’ and ‘Good 4 U’ saw her cement her status as one of the most exciting rising artists around.
Released in May, her debut album ‘Sour’ was as surprising as it was brilliant, walking the line between heartbroken bedroom pop and snarling revenge punk. Shocking absolutely nobody, it went on to have the biggest opening week for an album by a woman in Spotify history. That said, without live shows, it still felt like Rodrigo had something to prove.
Beyond a handful of television performances, majority of the tracks from ‘Sour’ have never been performed live. Last night, however, that all changed as Olivia Rodrigo invited us all to her very own Sour Prom.
A concert film slash livestream, the 30-minute show opens with a white limo (of course) pulling up to Rodrigo’s house in the suburbs before she delivers a slow-burning mash-up of ‘Déjà vu’ and ‘Happier’ from the backseat. It sets up the heartbroken scene perfectly. However, Rodrigo is all about turning pain into power. Arriving at the prom – all balloon arches, disco balls and happy couples – she then launches into the chaotic thrash of ‘Brutal’.
Rodrigo’s never had the strongest vocals, and her real strength lies in making you feel the emotion behind the song – but tonight she sounds incredible even with a full band raging behind her. Subtle vocal cracks during ‘Jealousy, Jealousy’ add more power and biting honesty and, as Rodrigo explains in a pre-show Q+A, there’s something to be said for “not putting pressure on yourself to be perfect right away”.
Flickering between wounded acoustic numbers and swaggering pop-rock anthems, Sour Prom shows off Rodrigo’s musical and emotional range. With multiple sets and polished choreography, the performance feels suitably dramatic but is never in danger of becoming High School Musical: The Livestream.
The entirety of Sour Prom is fantastically impressive but it’s the closing one-two that really sees Rodrigo at her best. Finding new ways to bring out the hurt behind ‘Drivers License’, tonight’s rendition sees her perform it sitting at a piano surrounded by flashing spotlights and elegant dancers. It’s beautiful, delicate and soaring but tonight is all about celebration, not self-pity. And soon enough Rodrigo’s on the move again, swaggering over to a nearby soccer field for an explosive closing rendition of ‘Good 4 U’ alongside a marching band, pyro and a live audience. It’s more a Superbowl halftime show than a high school prom but we’ll take it.
Rodrigo is an artist who’s never been afraid to wear their inspirations on their sleeve. She obviously and unashamedly pulls influence from the likes Taylor Swift and Lorde (while her corsage is presumably from Courtney Love’s favourite florist) but tonight she’s also entirely herself. Not trying too hard to distance herself from where she came from nor trying to live up to anyone’s expectations, there’s a whole lot of Rodrigo’s personality throughout the show. Plus, a bunch of attitude as well. She’s obviously still finding her feet as an artist but tonight is proof the best is yet to come. And hopefully so are live dates because after this, we need to hear ‘Sour’ IRL.