Review: Fresh off Grammy Wins, Olivia Rodrigo Embarks on her 'Sour Tour'

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday May 9, 2022

Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo  (Source:John Locher/Invision/AP)

Olivia Rodrigo has had the kind of year that most singers only dream about. She wasn't exactly plucked from obscurity when her megahit debut album "Sour" dropped last May — she was already a star to young kids who knew her from her time on Disney's "Bizaardvark" and "High School Musical: The Series" — but with the release of "Sour," she became a household name to, well, the rest of the world.

"Sour" topped the charts for the better part of a year. Rodrigo became the first artist in history to debut their first three singles in the top 10. The album broke Spotify's global record for the biggest opening week for a female artist. It went triple platinum. Rolling Stone, Variety, The New York Times, and the BBC all named it one of the best albums of the year. Most recently, Rodrigo took home three Grammy awards, including Best New Artist.

Fans were frustrated, and it seemed odd, that an artist having a year as incredibly successful as Rodrigo hadn't made any plans for a tour. But it was her filming schedule with Disney (and, probably, a little thing called COVID) that delayed her plans. Until now.

The "Sour Tour," touring America through May 27 before a 15-date stint in Europe, is Rodrigo's first solo concert tour. Interestingly, but admirably, she chose to play smaller venues rather than giant arenas, which she probably wouldn't have had any trouble filling. The choice to play small venues, though, meant that a lot of her fans wouldn't have the opportunity to catch her live; the entire tour sold out in minutes. On the secondhand market, tickets for the "Sour Tour" were fetching high three-and-four-figure sums.

While the choice to play smaller venues disappointed a lot of fans, Rodrigo made the right call on that front. She's aware that, despite the success she's had this year, she's still just starting out. And, of course, with only one album under her belt, she didn't necessarily have the catalogue to support a giant, expensive tour.

I mean no shade when I say, however, that she doesn't seem to have enough material to support a smaller tour, either. With a setlist consisting of 14 songs, I spent more time traveling to and from the venue than I did watching the show. To put this in context, most artists tend to have around 20 songs in their setlists, with some overachievers coming closer to 30.

Performing all 11 tracks from "Sour" in addition to "All I Want," a song she wrote for the "High School Musical" series, Rodrigo also included two covers by artists who have undoubtedly inspired her: "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne and "Seether" by Veruca Salt. Rodrigo wears her songwriting influences on her sleeve, so adding a few more covers to her setlist would have given the show a more complete feeling.

It's easy to forget, given the success that she's had, that Rodrigo is only 19 years old; astonishingly, she was 17 when she wrote "Sour." When I was 19 years old, I could barely toast a bagel, so I'm in awe of not only Rodrigo's songwriting but also her effervescent and legitimately admirable performance. Now, I'm closer to 40 than I am 21, so while I am more than capable of toasting a bagel at this point in my life, I am not exactly the type of person that Olivia Rodrigo is writing music for. But the venue was filled with the kind of young girls that Rodrigo is writing songs for, and I saw no fewer than three of them pass out during the show, so that's got to stand for something. I can't relate, really, to songs about adolescent heartbreak and the torments of being a teenager. But even a cursory listen through "Sour" makes it clear that Rodrigo is one hell of a songwriter, one whose sound and lyrics will ripen and flourish as time goes on, and I — like everyone else — will be paying attention.

On a basic, two-tiered set with a six-person band in front of a ragtag looking fringe curtain, Rodrigo stormed the stage to the punk-pop "Brutal," a song clearly inspired by Veruca Salt's "Seether," in which she bemoans one's frustrating, confusing, and self-conscious teenage years. It was a few songs in before I could even hear Rodrigo's actual vocals, which were drowned out by a mix of screams and singing from her fans.

For "Driver's License," the song that made her a global superstar, Rodrigo sat down at the piano and delivered one of the evening's most impressive performances, infusing the song we've all heard on the radio a million times with a raw passion that doesn't quite come through on the recorded track. Next, in "Hope Ur Ok," a bittersweet song about missing two old, presumably gay, friends from long ago, Rodrigo shows that she's often at her most compelling when she delves a little deeper and dials it all the way down.

For a few of the quieter moments, Rodrigo stood in front of a velvet curtain with her purple guitar, and that's when she seemed to connect best to both her material and to her fans. In "All I Want," a song that finds Rodrigo wishing for love and longing for a time when she'll be content with having, if no one else, herself, I was disarmed by her ability to make such simple ideas sound so beautiful. It's this song, after all, that she says made her realize that she could be a songwriter.

The final three songs of the show, "Traitor," "Déjà Vu," and "Good 4 U" — all massive hits — left little doubt that Rodrigo is a force to be reckoned with, both onstage and in the music industry. With an unimpeachably impressive gift for songwriting, Rodrigo is the real deal who seems destined to have a career full of meteoric highs. Good 4 her.