Concert Reviews

Hey, Lizzo Fans: Where Are the Thick Bitches At?

On October 15, Lizzo performing the first of two sold-out shows at the Fillmore Auditorium.
On October 15, Lizzo performing the first of two sold-out shows at the Fillmore Auditorium. Miles Chrisinger
I had just shaken my whole ass wholeheartedly to Lizzo's Tempo.

If you've met my ass in person, you know that it genuinely shakes. So do my thighs. So does my belly.

On the Fillmore Auditorium stage Wednesday night, Lizzo glowed at her nearly 4,000-member audience. She struck a mix of classic diva and tent-revival preacher. And she wanted to know where her thick bitches were at.

Of course I jumped up and down in delight, multiple parts of my body jiggling.

The man next to me turned: "Girl, you're not a thick bitch. I am."

His shoulders and chest were obviously sculpted through hours of benching, military presses and carefully calculated protein intake. The veins on the side of his forehead bulged in a pretty intense sort of way. As for the sticks he stood on, not so much.

"You're on steroids, and I can still lift more than you on leg day," I said. Lizzo was preaching love on Wednesday, but that didn't make me any less of a dick.

I have no idea if the muscle man actually heard me or how he responded, because like so many of the people packed into the Fillmore Auditorium, I was experiencing a secular stand-in for religious rapture. Lizzo, DJ Sophia Eris, the Big GRRRLS dancers and everyone else who produced the show had carefully crafted that atmosphere. The stage was dressed like an electrified, Technicolor pulpit.

Lizzo asked her fans for "amens" when the spirit moved us. She got them. It's not exactly news: Lizzo's got swagger; she masterfully controls a room.

Her stage persona is as confident as you'd assume. Heck, it's probably twice as confident as you'd assume. When she asked the audience for something, almost everyone I could see eagerly obliged, with no obvious traces of irony.

Lizzo told the audience that even now she struggles; she needed us to tell her that we love her, and it felt like she was doing us a favor. Our love? She needs our love? Yes, please, Lizzo, take what you need.

Pop stars copping a gee-whiz-can't-believe-I-made-it-this-far attitude is a trope that usually reads as hollow and manipulative. But at 31, Lizzo spent nearly a decade grinding away in hip-hop and R&B niches before cracking into massive commercial success with her album Cuz I Love You earlier this year.

So when she talked about what a wild journey the past few months have been, it was easy to believe. Nothing suggested she wasn't 100 percent genuine, even behind that perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect skin. Her joy as she basked in audience adoration felt so real that it would break my heart a little if I found out it wasn't.

After a night of watching her sing, dance, preach and play flute (yes, Sasha made an appearance — for a short burst in the regular set, and a longer stint during the encore performance of Juice), it's easy to imagine that in thirty years, I might recall this show with the same awe my dad has when he waxes about seeing James Brown.

Lizzo performed like her life depended on it: If she wasn't dancing, she was milking every drop of emotion out of a facial expression or a pose. If she wasn't singing, she was prompting the audience to do so, or offering a sermon about self-love, self-care, pruning the scrubs from our lives and remembering to moisturize.

But whenever I let myself peek beyond the world Lizzo and her team concocted, things got uncomfortable, fast. As Eris warmed up the crowd early in the night, a woman next to me screamed along with Beyoncé's Formation, not skipping over that word that — as a white person myself — I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to use.

I watched thin white women literally push black women and fat people out of the way, scrambling to get closer to the stage, splashing drinks on anyone they determined could just as well get behind them.

I've always rolled my eyes at the I-heard-them-first-I-love-them-more brand of music fans. After all, lots of talented, interesting performers spend lifetimes working on their crafts with little or no appreciation. Don't we want artists we love to thrive? To pay some bills, get rid of those student loans and make more art? To spread their visions and their messages?

But sometimes, when you feel an artist made something special for you, something that speaks to your experience, there's this tension. All these people are finding joy in something you love. That's cool. But some of them sure are taking up a lot of space.

And what happens when they leave? Is the tight-bodied, conventionally attractive woman going to trash-talk her fat cousin? Is she going to yell uninvited (and almost certainly unwanted) encouragement to the chubby stranger at the gym? Who knows?

Sure, I love seeing Lizzo reflect a social relevance and downright coolness that we don't often see coming from larger women, but it hasn't exactly taught plus-size clothing manufacturers how to make decent-looking jeans with inseams that don't rip open within a couple of months. Change might be coming, but not that fast.

If you were a sloppy drunk skinny lady who plowed, elbowed and pushed through one of Lizzo's shows (especially if you're the one who dislocated my toe, because you're not sure how to wear stilettos in a crowd, then grabbed my boobs to steer me out of your little clique's path – thanks, love!), take heart. You're not alone. Most of us are guilty of thoughtlessly tromping through a space that's special to someone else, leaving our muddy boot prints for them to mop up later. Usually, we don't even know we're doing it. It's one of the grungy little parts of a system that commodifies art and creativity.

Maybe that's something you're inclined to reflect on. If so, let's make a pact: If you're skinny and Lizzo lifts you up, you don't get to make fun of fat people anymore. Not even in the name of wringing your hands over health.

And finally, because you asked, the good stuff: Lizzo was wearing a golden lingerie set, garters loose at the bottom, so when she twerked they could get some of that tassel action going. Later in the night, she put on sequined bell bottoms that said "100% That Bitch." You bet "100%" was printed right across her booty.

Every bit of her costuming was designed to ensure her ass could genuinely shake, and she looked divine. 
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.

Latest Stories