Olivia Rodrigo blends angst and sincerity at opening 'Guts' tour show at Acrisure Arena (2024)

If it wasn’t already clear, Olivia Rodrigo is no longer that tween from the hilariously named “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”

Like many pop girlies of the early aughts, 2010s and present decade, she got her big break at 13 on Disney Channel, but she is no longer the young girl playing Gen Z’s Gabriella, aka Nini.She’s a full-fledged woman wearing red leather jumpsuits and singing about everything from crawling back to ex-boyfriends to disorded eating at her sold-out arena shows, and I’m loving every second of it.

The three-time Grammy Award winner and her team chose to kick off the “Guts” world tour, which follows the release of her sophom*ore album of the same name, just an hour from her native Temecula in Palm Desert (though all the merch, not surprisingly, said Palm Springs).

It wasn’t technically a hometown show, but the vibe felt like a homecoming of sorts, and seeing one of the biggest stars to come out of Riverside County in recent history (next to our own desert local Jenna Ortega, of course) play Acrisure Arena just felt … special.

Olivia Rodrigo blends angst and sincerity at opening 'Guts' tour show at Acrisure Arena (2)

She kicked off the much-anticipated evening with “bad idea right?,” which is a song with lyrics so relatable to many of us, it’s almost comical.“And I'm sure I've seen much hotter men, but I really can't remember when,” she sang coquettishly while donning the same sparkly bralette and skirt set that was teased in a flirty post on her Instagram page earlier in the day.

“Hey guys!” she yelled into the microphone after finishing her second song, “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” with a big grin on her face. “Welcome to the first f---ing night of the ‘Guts’ world tour!”

See what I mean about being far past the Disney point in her career?

Related story:Here's every song on Olivia Rodrigo's set list from opening night of her 'Guts' tour

It wasn’t until the fourth song in Rodrigo’s set that she brought it back to the “Sour” album days with every scorned woman's favorite, “traitor,” and it’s also the point in the show when her dancers first came out.

I was on dance team in high school and college, so I feel like I have the right to say this, but who the hell gave Rodrigo the idea that adding contemporary dance to her ’90s rock-infused pop songs would work? And more importantly, why did it work so well?

The dancers elevated the already emotional song with their balance between graceful and pained movements, and the shadow effect cast on the screen behind them elevated the number to something even more artistic than I imagined I’d see at this show, to be honest.

Olivia Rodrigo blends angst and sincerity at opening 'Guts' tour show at Acrisure Arena (3)

There was a moment here in the first quarter of the concert where I caught a quick look at Rodrigo as she turned to walk back to center stage between songs. It was a split-second expression, but I swear she looked left and right, as if briefly taking in the scene around her, and smiled to herself. She was facing away from the crowd, but the camera crew caught it on the video screen, and it felt like we could read her mind: “wow, I’m really doing this.”

It reminded me that I was watching an early-career artist on her first arena tour, and that though she’s matured, she isn’t taking this for granted.

I was reflecting on Rodrigo’s age — she just turned 21 on Feb. 20 — while walking outside the venue before doors opened. She clearly has a lot of fans young fans, and I was afraid my newly 30-year-old self would look like the Crypt Keeper next to the black-and-purple-clad tweens, teens and early 20-somethings that were sure to pack the arena, but the crowd actually reflected a beautiful truth about Rodrigo’s music: it’s about growing up, and therefore, it's universal.

Olivia Rodrigo blends angst and sincerity at opening 'Guts' tour show at Acrisure Arena (4)

Before the show, I spoke with everyone from a young granddaughter from Colorado (accompanied by her grandmother, a Coachella Valley local) who said she was “only 8” when she first discovered Rodrigo, to a 39-year-old DJ from Los Angeles who said he first heard the buzz about Rodrigo a few years ago through work. When he first played her music in the club, he said, “everyone went crazy.”

“That ’90s sound really got me,” Jeffery Lyman (the DJ), said of what first drew him to Rodrigo’s music. “I grew up listening to The Breeders and Garbage and all these artists that she’s mentioned have influenced her, and you can just tell those influences are so heavy.”

Jamiee Jackson (the granddaughter) said Rodrigo has never put out a song she couldn’t relate to in some way.

Olivia Rodrigo blends angst and sincerity at opening 'Guts' tour show at Acrisure Arena (5)

“I think she teaches everyone to love themselves, and I think she’s a really kind person at heart. … she shows us it’s OK to be who you are."

Dorry Lillard, her grandmother, bought tickets the second presale opened, and she kept it a secret for months — until they arrived at the arena Friday evening. She said getting to have this experience with Jackson is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to share in something that brings her granddaughter so much joy.

Joy seemed to be a common theme throughout Rodrigo’s show, and despite the angsty motifs associated with “Guts,” Rodrigo's stomping about the stage was just as common as her joyful twirls.

Olivia Rodrigo blends angst and sincerity at opening 'Guts' tour show at Acrisure Arena (6)

One of my favorite moments was when a set piece I’d eyed across the arena early on finally got used. During the songs “logical” and “enough for you,” Rodrigo sat on a shiny crescent moon-shaped platform that got hoisted in the air, eventually facing each side of the arena by the end of its circular path.

In between the two songs, the set piece paused in the back of the arena and she asked everyone how they were doing. She also took the moment to talk about her SoCal connections.

“I’m from Temecula which is not too far … so I’m sort of a Riverside County sister” she said to more cheers than I expected (one of the rare instances when the Inland Empire can be cool, when Rodrigo talks about it).

Another one of my favorite moments was before “happier,” when Rodrigo took a moment to explain the song’s backstory.

Olivia Rodrigo blends angst and sincerity at opening 'Guts' tour show at Acrisure Arena (7)

“I wrote this song when I was on the set of a TV show,” she said while sitting cross-legged on the ground across from her guitarist. “It came to me in the middle of a scene, the lines ‘I hope you're happy, but not like how you were with me,’ so I told the director I had to pee really, really bad and I grabbed my phone and ran to the bathroom and recorded the chorus.”

The concert did a good job of showcasing Rodrigo’s various talents beyond just singing and songwriting. She took to the piano to play her smash hit "drivers license" and a rendition of “teenage dream” dripping with nostalgia (complete with home videos of her as a toddler playing in the background); she went back to her musical theater roots by jumping in and out of choreography with her dancers during "pretty isn't pretty" and several other songs; and she grabbed her electric guitar for bonus track “obsessed” (and even ended the song by slamming her drummer’s cymbals in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion).

It was fun to see Rodrigo go from those pure rocker chick moments to the raw, inexplicably intimate-despite-being-in-an-11,000-seat-arena moments like when she appeared to be blinking back tears at the end of a particularly emotional rendition of “the grudge.”

It was equally fun to see her lean into her own sensuality, especially when she mouthed what I recently learned was an original "all-american bitch" lyric that her team made her change: “perfect, all-American lips, and perfect, all-American tit*.”

Olivia Rodrigo blends angst and sincerity at opening 'Guts' tour show at Acrisure Arena (8)

I loved it. Go for it, girl, yell those words you couldn’t on Disney Channel. You’re a woman now.

Something that came up with almost everyone, particularly those under 20, who I spoke to before the show was Rodrigo’s honesty in her songwriting.

“She doesn’t sugarcoat things, and she kind of gives teenage girls a place to vent and hear their feelings,” said Adeline Newby, a teen from the Bay Area who shares the same recent birthday with Rodrigo, as her poster said.

I have to agree, and I’m thankful that tonight, Rodrigo created a space to vent that doesn’t have an age limit.

Related:Here's every song on Olivia Rodrigo's set list from opening night of her 'Guts' tour

Writer's note: This was a review of Olivia Rodrigo's performance, not Chappell Roan's opening set, but it should be said that Roan CRUSHED it and this journalist is extra, extra excited to see her perform at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April.

Niki Kottmann is The Desert Sun's features editor, and she oversees all the paper's arts, entertainment, education and health coverage.

Olivia Rodrigo blends angst and sincerity at opening 'Guts' tour show at Acrisure Arena (2024)


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