London-based pop singer Rina Sawayama finally brought her 2020 debut album “SAWAYAMA” to life during her April 30 concert at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre at 4746 North Racine Ave.
Sawayama, 31, emerged under colorful lights in front of the packed theater. Her performance highlighted themes such as her sexuality and personal relationships through electro pop-rock music.
Opening for Sawayama was local DJ Miss Toto. She transformed the venue into a vibrant nightclub, using an audio mixer to create live remixes of popular songs such as Dua Lipa’s “Levitating,” which proved to be a crowd-pleaser. Miss Toto’s energy radiated from the stage, leaving the audience dancing after her set concluded.
The audience buzzed in anticipation as Sawayama’s band made their way onto the stage prior to her entrance. As the lights dimmed and the audience repeatedly screamed her name, the singer gave into the crowd’s chants and made an elegant appearance on the stage.
Dressed in a red suit, Sawayama emitted confidence as she began serenading the audience with her song “Dynasty.” The first track off her 2020 release “SAWAYAMA” quickly shifted from a slow ballad to a fast-paced pop-rock jam.
“Saving myself / Is all I really know / Seen it being done before / I’m a dynasty,” Sawayama asserted through graceful notes.
Sawayama has clearly mastered the art of turning a tender moment into a display of self-assurance. Following her opening song, she delivered a short monologue expressing gratitude for her Chicago fans before encouraging them to shout the chorus of her next song.
As the punk-rock introduction began, two dancers joined Sawayama on stage for her song “STFU!” The trio added a captivating visual aspect to the show by performing animated and energetic choreography.
The singer and dancers seamlessly blended fluid and sharp movements, proving their immense talent unquestionable. The dancers remained on stage for a majority of Sawayama’s set, adding further support to the singer’s strong performance.
While her song “Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)” ended, Sawayama left her band and dancers in the spotlight as she exited the stage. With a change of attire but a seemingly everlasting confidence, she strutted back to centerstage to continue the show.
Despite her constant movement around the stage for nearly the entire concert, Sawayama’s lively energy and unexhausted disposition never diminished.
Sawayama didn’t hesitate to share moments of vulnerability with the crowd by expanding on the meanings of her songs and providing reflective anecdotes. Leading into “Bad Friend,” the singer shared the story of a time she neglected a close friendship.
The high-powered show slowed down for a few minutes for Sawayama’s acoustic performance of “Chosen Family.” Her love and appreciation for her fans was palpable as she sang.
Her smooth voice mirrored the album’s recording of the song and cemented her vocal capabilities as a live performer. Sawayama’s polished singing blanketed the crowd and filled the theater with a sense of warmth and intimacy.
“We don’t need to be related to relate / We don’t need to share genes or a surname / You are, you are / My chosen, chosen family,” she sang.
The singer then shifted back into her usual high-spirited behavior and satisfied fans with a performance of an unreleased song titled “Catch Me In The Air.” Sawayama expanded on the meaning behind the new tune by detailing her relationship with her single mother.
Sawayama finished her set with her 2018 single “Cherry.” The song explores Sawayama’s identity as a pansexual individual, a fact she proudly shared with the crowd while encouraging fans to be confident in their own identities.
After thanking the crowd and exiting the stage, the theater erupted in a second round of chanting her name. For several minutes, fans practically begged Sawayama to return for an encore until she eventually reappeared to fulfill their wishes.
She presented a three-song encore, starting with her song “XS,” followed by “LUCID” and wrapping the show up with a cover of Lady Gaga’s song “Free Woman” from her 2020 release “Chromatica.” She dedicated her performance of the song to Britney Spears, referencing the end of Spears’ conservatorship late last year.
Sawayama’s Chicago stop on The Dynasty Tour was a demonstration of passionate artistry and undeniable talent, leaving some fans with elevated confidence and a sense of belonging.
“SAWAYAMA,” the debut studio album by Rina Sawayama, is available for streaming on all major streaming platforms.