SZA•d4vd•October 19, 2023•Delta Center
Reviewed and Photographed by Logan Fang
Last Thursday, Salt Lake had the pleasure of hosting pop and R&B superstar SZA at the Delta Center for the next leg of her SOS Tour. Because the tour was canceled last spring, it was clear that Utah fans were eager to hear her perform in SLC, as even an hour before the concert began, the staggering line already wrapped around the block. As a long time listener of SZA ever since her debut album “Ctrl,” I too was bubbling with excitement. Her most recent album “SOS” has amassed overwhelming success since its release, reigning at No. 1 for nearly two months on the Billboard 200.
It’s not hard to see why either. With emotive tracks like “Good Days” and “Kill Bill,” SZA’s dominance in R&B rivals that of Whitney Houston, who in 1987, experienced similar commercial success on the Billboard Music Charts. Stats aside, the St. Louis native was joined by pop artist d4vd (david) who also seemed to generate a lot of buzz from the younger audience.
Now walking onto the floor, I was instantly swarmed by the countless fans donning SZA’s signature #6 hockey jerseys. Audience members danced along to the music blaring from the music above while others scurried to their seats before the performance began. I had never taken photos at the Delta Center before, so this was certainly a new but welcome atmosphere to me.
By the time d4vd’s set began, most of the audience was still filing into their respective seats. In spite of all the commotion with security trying to usher people into their seats, d4vd’s set was an enjoyable listen, featuring selections from his popular TikTok songs like “Romantic Homicide” and “Here With Me.” His setlist was surprisingly diverse as I’d only known him for a couple of his upbeat pop tracks. Wearing a tight beanie, he performed several more moody songs that were quite Joji-esque.
At times, he would pause to connect with the audience and talk about the inspiration behind his work. He talked about being ghosted by his lover which inspired him to write “You and I.” His ability to resonate with the younger audience made his performance all the more enjoyable. To conclude his set, he performed his most popular piece “Romantic Homicide” to a standing (and screaming) audience. Overall, his short performance was a light but pleasant listen that primed the stage for SZA’s set.
After I hunkered down onto the floor once again, I made my way to the soundboard where I would be shooting SZA’s set. Like for d4vd’s performance, I was stationed at the back of the venue to photograph the concert. Joining a couple of other event managers on the floor, they whispered to me that SZA would enter the concert from the back of the arena. I’d never seen that done before and it seems the audience hadn’t anticipated it either as they trained their phone cameras on the stage.
When the show began, SZA descended down a flight of stairs as fans pushed together to get a better look of her. Her security then formed a tight circle around her and guided her way onto stage. She opened with “PSA,” one of her calmer pieces featuring blue, wave-like visuals in the background. The water themed graphics cemented an air of excitement throughout the stadium.
One of my favorite parts of the stage set was the rusty boat that SZA would often perform on. At times it was floating calmly across the ocean, but at others it was seen crashing against the shore with ocean and wave visuals playing in the background. The nautical themed production drew fans into her stunning maritime performance. Maintaining a brisk pace throughout the entire show, she made her way through songs like “All the Stars” featuring Kendrick Lamar and the rhythmic track “F2F.” Even when she needed an outfit change, SZA never left the audience’s line of sight; while her team changed her clothes and fixed her hair backstage, she could still be seen performing on a grayscale screen.
After her performance on stage, a descending life raft caught the attention of the audience. Stepping into the orange lifeboat, SZA rose in the air, continuing to perform without missing a beat. Now suspended well above the audience, SZA grabbed handfuls of rose petals inside the boat and tossed them to the cheering audience below. On the opposite side of the venue, a lighthouse projecting a single beam of light focused on SZA as she seemingly floated around the stadium. On the little dinghy she performed three of her top hits, “Special,” “Gone Girl,” and “Nobody Gets Me.”
Two of her most popular (and my personal favorite) songs from her performance stood out from the rest. “Kill Bill” had fans singing along to the classic line “And I might kill my ex” while “Good Days” seemed to hold the stadium in a state of awe. While singing along to both, I watched as SZA performed alongside her several dancers who provided a unique visual spectacle themselves, dancing and swaying to the beat while dressed in nautical attire. Ending on her biggest hit, “Good Days” for the encore, she performed against the backdrop of a waning sunset, circling back to the nautical theme of the concert. From prancing across the deck of an old steamboat to serenading the audience on a floating lifeboat, SZA show was a magical voyage through her SOS album and her older classics that we could not get enough of.