Rina Sawayama Cements Pop Star Status at Last Show of U.S. Hold The Girl Tour in Boston – By Julie Scesney

At a rescheduled show, Rina Sawayama closed out her U.S. Hold The Girl Tour on December 2nd at Roadrunner in Boston.  A rising star in the pop sphere, Rina truly gave a pop star performance on Friday; complete with outfit changes, dance choreography, and a very tight set.  She gave us a roadmap of the concert at the top, instructing that we would journey from 2000s stadium pop to dark electronic to nu metal to a more intimate, acoustic section, and finally, we would all dance.  She kept her word, and cycled through the various genres of Hold The Girl, interspersed with older hits.  As a concert-goer, I was grateful to have an idea of where the show would go, and the assurance that we would close out with some bops.  However, it also made me hyper aware of where we were in the performance at all times, which made it hard to stay present.  

Some standouts for me were definitely Catch Me in the Air, which was released as a single when I had covid over the summer.  I teared up remembering how that song was a blissful escape for me when I was sick and trapped in my childhood home.  She also played hits off of her earlier LP, SAWAYAMA, like STFU! and Bad Friend, which were a thrill to hear live.  SAWAYAMA was released in April 2020, and it struck me during the show just how much of my relationship with Rina’s music has been impacted by the pandemic.  I walked many footpaths in central NJ listening to that album and later singles like LUCID; living my main character life in a coronavirus pod of one before returning to my apartment.  Seeing Rina live now was an emotional reminder of how much living I have done in the last two years, and how far we have all come since the start of the pandemic.

As a concert experience, Rina’s belt was as impressive as ever.  She commanded the stage; frequently posing in front of a giant fan a la Beyoncé flanked by two impressive back up dancers.  She had the energy and attitude of a star who knows she’s serving to the myriad rhinestone cowboy hat wearing queer folks in the audience.  But her set also felt a little disjointed, with no transitions linking one song to the next.  Instead, the entire stage would black out as they set up for the next track.  Additionally, some live arrangements of hits stopped the songs in the middle of a flow and left the audience confused mid sing-a-long.  The main culprit of this tactic was the encore of This Hell, which was awkwardly stopped before the bridge so that Rina could lead the audience in a call and response to the couplet that starts, “Got my invitation.”  Eventually the audience got the hang of it, and as we screamed, “GET IN LINE, PASS THE WINE” I felt fully immersed in my surroundings.  But then the last chorus played and the concert was over.  This moment highlighted the tension between the pure desire of the audience to lose themselves in the music, and the carefully constructed Moment that was prescribed for us.  Perhaps such rigid direction is just a trade off of a pop star’s rise; a series of well planned beats to give the audience the best show possible.  But for me, the most transcendent moments of the show were the ones that caught me off guard, when I was blissfully dancing to music that has guided me through some of the most intense years of my life.

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