Live review

Olivia Rodrigo’s London O2 Arena residency is an all guns blazing powerhouse of pop brilliance

Still only 21, Rodrigo’s show quite literally hits heights most could only dream of.

From the moment you step into London’s O2 Arena, there’s no question as to which pop megastar is currently in residence. They’ve rolled out the purple carpet, whilst the same signature hue can be seen everywhere - on cowboy hats and seas of sparkly tops, each uniform-wearer attesting to the sheer devotion that Olivia Rodrigo has instilled in her legions of fans (80,000 over four nights, just in London).

Whilst it’s no new thing for a top tier pop star to incite this kind of fervour, there’s something about Rodrigo - now two albums in and still only 21 - that feels more authentic than many of her more meticulously-curated peers. Though tonight’s show is an absolute capital letter Big Pop Spectacle, replete with backing dancers, star-shaped confetti cannons, and a giant crescent moon that the singer sits atop of, flying over the crowd like a sassy Tinkerbell, it also makes consciously interesting, slightly more edgy choices. The dancers lean towards the interpretive, adding eerie, shadowy silhouettes to ‘traitor’ and forming a clever human clock face around the singer on ‘lacy’. A camera placed under the stage allows for Rodrigo to loom into it, adding a cheeky, bratty, confrontational layer to ‘obsessed’, while the choice to utilise an all-female backing band lends a girl gang sense of fun to the atmosphere on stage.

There’s no question that Rodrigo has been racking up the hits since emerging with breakthrough ‘driver’s license’; last year’s single ‘vampire’ alone has reached nearly a billion streams in less than a year. But as she serves up both of those massive tracks alongside stomping opener ‘bad idea, right?’ within the first 20 minutes, it’s a brilliantly audacious acknowledgement of just how much she has in her arsenal. Recent ‘GUTS’ bonus tracks ‘obsessed’ and ‘so american’ land as two of her biggest crowd pleasers (by this metric, who can say what other gems may still be living on the cutting room floor), while throughout, the screams resonating around the arena are at One Direction levels of tinnitus-inducing.

Olivia Rodrigo’s London O2 Arena residency is an all guns blazing powerhouse of pop brilliance Olivia Rodrigo’s London O2 Arena residency is an all guns blazing powerhouse of pop brilliance Olivia Rodrigo’s London O2 Arena residency is an all guns blazing powerhouse of pop brilliance

There are loose sections to the show that culminate with the massive video screen - often used to pan to squealing members of the crowd, American sports cam-style - erupting into flames as Rodrigo re-emerges, red leotard on, for a final bangers finale that begins with ‘brutal’. She ends the main body of the set with the tongue-in-cheek flip of ‘all-american bitch’, its eye-rolling faux-choral section perfectly offset with the cathartic guitar purge of its chorus, and then it’s a closing one-two of ‘good 4 u’, ‘get him back!’ and we’re out. 

That over 100 minutes, the energy almost never dips is testament to a pair of records in which almost every song is a hit; in a 23-song set, she plays almost everything she’s released and rarely misses. But more than just the ability to write a winner, tonight underlines the exact space that Olivia Rodrigo occupies in the top pop landscape - one brimming with personality and fun, but that still revels in the messiness of youth even within such A-list arena polish.

Olivia Rodrigo’s London O2 Arena residency is an all guns blazing powerhouse of pop brilliance Olivia Rodrigo’s London O2 Arena residency is an all guns blazing powerhouse of pop brilliance Olivia Rodrigo’s London O2 Arena residency is an all guns blazing powerhouse of pop brilliance

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