There’s something incredible – and also emotionally overwhelming – about hearing songs that consoled you through hard times live. SZA’s Ctrl has been a comfort blanket for so many and SOS has held my hand through more recent times where I didn’t feel like I was enough. SZA’s vocals bared all the emotions her songs chew over as the crowd sang their hearts out – I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in the crowd of around 20,000 people who had a lump in their throat and tears welling up in their eyes. SZA’s music is undeniably relatable, which is why her fans adore her, they resonate with her vulnerable lyricism and appreciate how she’s not afraid to open up about being insecure. And this is exactly why she can pack out an arena with fans dedicated to grabbing tickets and lining up early just to see her, but alas it was so much more than heart-wrenching vocals belting out relatable lyrics. 

SZA took us on a journey under the sea and this is exactly how she did it:

Recreating the SOS album cover

The screen rises to reveal waves crashing as SZA is perched on the edge of a diving board while opening the SOS tour with an unreleased track called ‘PSA’ that she’s previously teased. The screen descends over her towards the end of the song, covering her completely before her silhouette dives into the water.

The flashing lights before ‘Seek and Destroy’

Lights began to flash powerfully, dancing across the stadium as the screen read “TDE Presents…The S.O.S. Tour, starring SZA” as the screen lifted again, revealing a shipwrecked boat. She performed ‘Seek and Destroy’, her lush vocals filling the stadium while her backup dancers hit every beat her band played.

Bringing out Travis Scott for ‘Love Galore’

At this point the sun was setting in the scene on the screen. The light hums of the intro of ‘Love Galore’ subtly emerged through the speakers as the crowd started to go crazy for the Ctrl favourite, the crowd starts to sing “Love, looove, love” before the familiar autotune of Travis Scott’s voice creeps in. He brings high energy to her tour and the chemistry they have on stage is electric.

SZA perform live on stage during The S.O.S. Tour 2023 concert at the Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin on June 09, 2023 in Berlin Germany. Photography by Pedro Becerra

Her ‘Bag Lady’ cover

Smoothly transitioning from ‘Used’ into Erykah Badu’s ‘Bag Lady’, the iconic guitar riff loop until slowly distorting as it comes to a halt while her oscillating vocals shine on top of the music. 

Visuals for ‘Ghost In The Machine’

“We don’t do this in every city but we’re gonna do it here okay,” she says enthusiastically as the notes of ‘Ghost In The Machine’ glide in, while the screen has transformed into something more mechanical – perhaps the inside of the boat as you can see all the machinery – quite fitting for this song in particular. Thousands of phone screens illuminate the pit as the dystopian instrumental allows SZA to belt her heart out, even adlibbing the Phoebe Bridgers verse. 

Her spellbinding performance of ‘Blind’

She introduces this song as speaking on how it feels to not be able to see the blessings in front of you. With the crowd singing along to guide her in the beginning – it seemed that she couldn’t hear herself in her in-ears to begin with – the seemingly unintentional back and fourth between her and the crowd created texture in sound before she hits the chorus, sing the song’s title in repeated ascending octaves.

The visual for ‘Smoking On My Ex Pack’

As SZA disappears and the screen cuts to a visual, SZA’s taken a step further into allowing her fans to see her experience. She raps and sings the lyrics as she’s being dressed into the next outfit by members of her team – giving fans more insight into what goes down during a tour while looking gorgeous as ever – listen, if you saw it or are going to her tour, when you see this visual, all you can think about is how her face card never declines.

SZA perform live on stage during The S.O.S. Tour 2023 concert at the Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin on June 09, 2023 in Berlin Germany. Photography by Pedro Becerra

A screen full of ‘All The Stars’

The screen went black, illuminated by stars as it started to rise, mirroring the crowd lit up by phone screens. The boat re-appeared as her dancers’ choreography was in sync with the impressive band and SZA’s soaring vocals while she stood on top of the boat.

Lights lit the stage Ctrl green for our favourites

Performing ‘Prom’, newly-added-to-the-setlist (just for Europe!) ‘Normal Girl’ and ‘Garden (Say It Like Dat) as the lights danced across the stadium in bright Ctrl green. Notably, the music arrangement for ‘Prom’ interpolated Cyndi Lauper’s classic ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’.

Soaring through the stadium on a safety raft

The boat is seeming to go through tumultuous waters on the screen as a lighthouse in the middle of the O2 shines a spotlight on stage. SZA begins to ascend as she sings ‘Supermodel’ and ‘Special’ in a floaty yellow dress, a different outfit to the one she had on stage. She asks the crowd if they wanna sing a song she wrote about her ex-fiancé with her, who blocked her on everything before launching into a gut-wrenching performance of ‘Nobody Gets Me’. She begins to return to the stage while singing ‘Gone Girl’.

Quentin Tarantino inspired visuals for ‘Kill Bill’

Behind SZA detailing how she’s gonna murder her ex, the visuals are red with black lines through it representing the sliding doors in the epic slaughter in Kill Bill, where The Crazy 88 take on The Bride in an epic massacre which is also represented as the silhouettes of her dancers appear every so often, creeping around SZA as she sings the viral hit.

The final moments

To close the show, she performs ‘I Hate You’ and ‘The Weekend’ on stage, before her final track ‘Good Days’ sees her back in the yellow dress, perched on the diving board again as clouds move on the screens, before the sky turns shades of pink and purple. ‘The End’ is being written out on the screen in glittery lettering like the end of the fairytale as the spellbinding show comes to a close.

check out more from GUAP’s music section.

About Author

Kat Friar