REVIEW: Lizzo at Summerfest

When the organizers of Summerfest booked Lizzo to a headlining slot at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, they likely had no idea that her album, “Cuz I Love You”, would rocket to the top ten on the Billboard charts. That being said, the estimated 10,000+ fans that saw her live on Thursday night got to witness a star in her breakout summer, even though fans of her previous projects have been raving about her for some time. That number may be on the low end, as a massive crowd absolutely packed the Roadhouse area for what was on paper going to be the top can’t-miss show at Summerfest for many people.

Without a ton of extra flash, Lizzo boldly took the stage on Thursday night, dressed in a shimmering one-piece outfit that featured plenty of posterior. She was flanked by a twerk team known as the Big Girls, and launched into the soulful intro to the title track from “Cuz I Love You”. If you couldn’t have already guessed, there were over 10,000 additional vocalists there to sing along. Things were only slightly shaky early on; the crowd was flooding any available open space, and the audio might have been reeling from the torrential downpour that shut Summerfest down on Thursday afternoon. It took about three songs of crowd jostling and mix adjusting before things settled down, and by the time the opening chords to upbeat banger “Water Me” filtered through the Roadhouse, the party was officially on.

Lizzo’s set list on Thursday reminded you on just how far she had come as an artist, and how many hits are already in her catalog. From the boisterous, sympathetic singalong to ballad “Jerome”, to the twerk-fest that is the Missy Elliot-featured “Tempo”, she had fans clinging to every word, and hitting every sassy line enthusiastically with with her from start to finish. The show felt like a celebration of everything that Lizzo stands for, from body positivity to girl power to eliminating fuckboys from your life, all within about an hour. By the time the opening piano for smash “Truth Hurts” rang out, Lizzo’s fans were already putting the si-i-i-ing in hit single for her. If you ever wanted to hear what thousands of simultaneous girls’ night outs sounded like, you heard it on Thursday night.

The true attraction, however, was Lizzo’s personality, which she unapologetically shared with the crowd all night. She thanked the fans for turning her from a “ratchet-ass bitch tryin’ to get her rap career off” to a “poppin’ ass bitch with a rap career”. She hit an operatic “bitch” for no apparent reason towards the end of the set, and her, as well as her dancers, wildly twerked with no shame whenever the set called for it. In fact, the Big Girls got some time on their own to shake like a Jamaican dancehall show had broken out. While the music of Lizzo is the show, the aura of Lizzo is what made Thursday night special.

It should be noted, that after her wild hour-long set, Lizzo tweeted that there was a backstage incident involving Summerfest security and her hair stylist. However, Summerfest did respond in a timely manner, and that hopefully won’t be more than a small blemish on the night in hindsight. If you were one of the thousands in attendance at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse (or all the way back to the food stands), you know that Lizzo might have put the definitive performance of Summerfest 2019 together on night two of the festival. It also is likely the last time we’ll see her on a ground stage, as she seems poised for American Family Insurance Amphitheater and Fiserv Forum dates in the future. Lizzo is here to stay, and Thursday night’s show more than proved that.

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