Olivia Rodrigo did the first night of her first tour Tuesday night, and there was some anticipation among fans about what she might do to fill out a headlining set, given that her heralded debut album clocks in at just under 35 minutes. Would the freshly minted star dip into the influences she’s accumulated in her 19 years?
Indeed, she did, adding some seething to go along with all the brutality out there, and some outside complications to augment her album’s sense of traitorousness.
Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” and Veruca Salt’s “Seether” were the two cover songs Rodrigo added to a set that otherwise consisted of the entirety of last year’s “Sour” album.
Rodrigo referred to Lavigne as “the pop-punk princess herself” in introducing her cover of the breakout hit by her forebear. Of course, the two have been associated before this: Lavigne introduced Rodrigo at Variety’s Hitmakers event in December, and then repeated that in ushering the younger singer onto the stage at Sunday night’s Grammys.
pop punk never dies pic.twitter.com/Q60DCct1H9
— brittany spanos (@ohheybrittany) April 6, 2022
Rodrigo’s love for Veruca Salt has been lesser-known, but in Portland, she introduced “Seether” by thanking her mom for introducing her to the band, whose original version of that song was an alternative-rock hit in 1994, nine years before Rodrigo was born.
For anyone who really wants to feel old, though, consider that even the Lavigne song came into the world a year before Rodrigo did.
The Grammys’ newly christened best new artist let some of her other favorite influences be known in her choice of between-set music, after opening act Gracie Abrams left the stage. Journalists on the scene reported that Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” the Cardigans’ “Lovefool,” the Breeders’ “Cannonball,” the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” and Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere” played over the PA prior to the headliner’s appearance — along with one male-fronted song: a three-peat play of One Direction’s “Olivia.”
But apparently another influence is… Abrams? Rodrigo remarked during her set that the song she was listening to in the sad drive she wrote about in “Drivers License” was Abrams’ “I Miss You, I’m Sorry.”
The New York Times and Rolling Stone both had critics flying in for the opening night for the Grammys’ newly christened best new artist.
Rolling Stone’s Brittany Spanos noted that Rodrigo came onto “a set that paid tribute to the singer’s ‘Sour Prom‘ concert film: Glittery streamers, bleachers, and a pop star in the Gwen Stefani special of plaid pants and a mesh crop top.” Spanos — who teaches the now-legendary class in Taylor Swift at NYU — said that the headliner’s “all-girl band [is] a quintet of powerhouse players who helped ramp up every single song, injecting even the more mid-tempo album cuts with a bit of that ‘Brutal’ and ‘Good 4 U’ grunge-punk rush,” with “Jealousy, Jealousy” cited as being most improved — or at least most pop-punk-ed up — from a more sedate album version. The two covers aside, perhaps the biggest wrinkle on what could have been a straight run-through of the album’s songs was folding “Enough for You” and “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back” into a medley.
There was no doubt that the show was a short one, and that fans wanted more, even if “more” might have entailed a dip into the “High School Musical” songbook that Rodrigo would likely have been highly disinclined to resort to. “The crowd lingered a bit longer than they needed to, as if she miraculously had more songs in the bank than the 11 originals she had just played (and they had long memorized),” Spanos wrote.
Jon Caramanica’s review in the Times said that in singing her breakout hit “Drivers License” alone at the piano, Rodrigo “took her time with it here, showing off the piercing thickness in her voice, even as seemingly each of the few thousand people in attendance was trying to outsing her. After she finished, she exhaled and smiled and noted, ‘That song won a Grammy, like, two days ago.'”
The Times took note of how Rodrigo is doing her first tour in theaters, all of which sold out instantly when tickets went on sale in what counts as a distinct underplay. “This boisterous, cathartic coming-out-on-the-road party was a manageable-sized affair,” wrote Caramanica. “Every song on ‘Sour’ and a couple of covers, all in just under an hour. Minimal staging, just gym bleachers on either side of the stage and a disco ball looming high overhead. And even though her hits probably could have filled arenas, Rodrigo is starting with more moderate-sized audiences.”
Caramanica wasn’t entirely enamored of Rodrigo’s reading of “Seether,” which he wrote “was the one moment Rodrigo appeared out of her depth, her irate vocals not able to cut through the band’s abandon.” Otherwise, the critic sensed her becoming more comfortable over the course of her first tour opener: “For most of the night, Rodrigo was either sitting or running, but by the end of the show, she looked more at ease. At the first chorus of ‘Deja Vu, she lay atop the piano and sang to the sky. And just as ‘Good 4 U,’ the night’s final song, was about to end, she ran over to the drums and began smashing away on a cymbal, a taste of all the freedoms to come.”