Olivia Rodrigo reigns over sold-out San Francisco show

It’s been exactly one year since singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo unleashed her first album, “Sour,” a collection of pandemic-written bedroom pop and pop-punk songs that went viral in a way no other album of its time has ever done.

The masterful, 11-track debut, with overnight-classics like “Deja Vu,” “Happier,” and, of course, the broken-hearted “Drivers License,” shattered the record for the biggest debut of 2021, besting even Taylor Swift’s “Fearless.” For an album by a female artist, it made Spotify history.

You might wonder how this overnight success would translate on stage, should Rodrigo, say, completely sell out her first tour, including the last night of the American leg, before embarking on a 15-city trek through Europe, which is also sold out.

The answer: She killed it. Rodrigo, 19, rocked San Francisco for the second time on Friday, May 27, performing hit after painfully-beautiful hit at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium after Los Angeles-based opener, Chappell Roan. Rodrigo started the tour at Bill Graham Civic, too, on April 2.

This time, the Murrieta-born aritst and her all-female band played for just over an hour and with no encore, delivering energized and emotional renditions of nine tracks off “Sour” and two covers. Hint: She is a self-proclaimed Avril Lavigne fan girl. Gwen Stefani, too.

“Hello, San Francisco! This is the last night of Sour Tour in the US,” Rodrigo shouted over the ear-piercing roar of the crowd after opening with “Brutal,” the angular, pop-punk lead track off “Sour” that reminds this reviewer of Elastica. “Clearly, we saved the best for last.”

They loved hearing that, and everything really. There wasn’t a moment during the sold-out show when Rodrigo’s predominantly 25-and-under fans weren’t screaming in approval. Every smile, comment and strut across the stage was met with squeals and whoops. When they weren’t covering their mouths in recognition of opening chords, they were cheering for guitar- or piano-playing, singing to each other, performing every lovelorn, self-doubting, vulnerable lyric as if they’d written it.

When Rodrigo paced the stage in her sequined tuxedo pants and signature combat boots during “Jealousy, Jealousy,” another cut that proves there’s a bit of edge to this teen crooner not unlike Lorde, Fiona Apple or a young Alanis Morrisette, she slammed her knees to the stage, professing “I’m so sick of myself/I’d rather be, rather be/Anyone, anyone else/But, jealousy, jealousy!”

Things took a quiet turn about mid-way into the show, when Rodrigo launched into “Driver’s License,” telling the audience the now-famous story of how she wrote the lyrics over several days while checking in with her best friend, trying to express the disappointment of a dissolved relationship that was never perfect to begin with.

Her vocal delivery was strong and controlled; she gave us the now-iconic trembly high notes that build like a wave in songs such as “Drivers License” and “Hope Ur Ok,” about childhood friends who were shunned or abused, which Rodrigo performed on accoustic guitar. She blew the audience away with her cover of Lavigne’s “Complicated,” hitting every pop-punk moment.

There was only one song that didn’t quite hit the mark with this Gen Z-heavy crowd, and it was Rodrigo’s rendition of Stefani’s “I’m Just a Girl.” Suddenly, the iPhones went down, they didn’t know the lyrics to sing along — but their parents did — and since Rodrigo’s voice is higher than Stefani’s, it made the delivery seem strained, and lacked that bumpy ska energy.

But that vibe was gone as soon as Rodrigo took a seat and spoke about her love of San Francisco, plastering the stage with SF-centric stickers before launching into “Favorite Crime,” the first song she ever wrote, insightful for a then-16 -year-old, about the roles we play in relationships: “And I watched as you fled the scene/Doe-eyed as you buried me/One heart broke, four hands bloody.”

After a wardrobe change into a jewel-crusted dress, Rodrigo closed the show just like she started it, with an anthemic, high-energy number. “Good 4 U” took the house down, not only for its quit-witted lyrics and instrumental prowess, but because Rodrigo jumped off the stage and walked into the crowd, singing to them the way they were singing to each other all night — with raw emotion.

“We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, San Francisco,” she said, after the purple confetti dropped and the lights went out.

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