Olivia Rodrigo at United Center: A Performance With Heart and ‘GUTS’

Singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo brought her pop-punk sound to Chicago for two nights of her “GUTS” World Tour.

Rodrigo performed hits from both her debut album

Transforming United Center into a sea of violet, glitter and angst, Olivia Rodrigo offered pop perfection March 20 — the second of two sold-out Chicago shows for her “GUTS” World Tour.

Donning girly-grunge apparel and glittery makeup, Rodrigo fans flooded the arena as pop singer Chappell Roan began her opening set. 

Kicking the night off with “Femininomenon,” Roan proved to be a modern musical Shakespeare, effortlessly yielding rhymes to made-up words.

She continued through her set, jumping across the stage during dance tracks like “Naked In Manhattan” and “After Midnight.” As her song “HOT TO GO!” began, Roan led the audience through choreographed arm movements, acquainting herself with the crowd.

While much of her setlist focused on lively beats and playful dancing, Roan’s performances of “Casual” and “Pink Pony Club” maintained high energy despite somber lyricism and pleading vocals identical to those in her September debut album “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess.”

As Roan left the stage, the crowd buzzed with anticipation as a screen projection of candles that spelled “GUTS” lit and began to melt. When the flames met the bottom of the candle wicks, the lights dimmed and clips of Rodrigo walking through backstage flashed on the screen.

After her band settled on stage, a video of Rodrigo’s hand knocking on a purple door played on the stage’s backdrop as the singer appeared through dramatic lighting and fog.

“Seeing you tonight / It’s a bad idea, right?” Rodrigo sang during her opening song “bad idea right?”

Cheering fans disagreed with the sentiment. 

Rodrigo performed hits from both of her albums. (Ella Govrik / The Phoenix)

Rodrigo continued with “ballad of a homeschooled girl” which was the crowd’s first exposure to her strong range — seamlessly bouncing between monotonous talk-singing and strong belting.

The singer then sunk her teeth into the first real ballad of the night in the form of “vampire,” the lead single off her sophomore album “GUTS.” Adoring fans drowned out Rodrigo’s commanding high notes.

A piano rose through centerstage and Rodrigo sat at the bench, performing a rendition of her 2021 hit “drivers license.” Purple lighting and dense fog flooded the stage as she sang, emitting candid emotion particularly during the song’s bridge where she belted relentlessly.

Rodrigo continued with other sobering songs, following “drivers license” with “teenage dream.” The now-21-year-old told the crowd she wrote the track a few days before she turned 19 — a time when she was “scared of growing up.” 

“I actually think growing up is the most wonderful thing in the world and I can’t wait to get older,” Rodrigo said, assuring the crowd of her matured perspective.

Short videos of Rodrigo as a child played on the screen as she delivered gracefully powerful vocals during the song.

Backup dancers made their first appearance during “pretty isn’t pretty,” sitting at Rodrigo’s feet and holding hand mirrors up to the singer, adding even more dimension to Rodrigo’s dynamic performance.

Following “love is embarrassing,” dancers left the stage while Rodrigo sat in the center on a rising platform during “making the bed.” Her unwavering belts persisted despite her laying down, showing off the singer’s impressive vocal support.

“I’m so tired of being the girl that I am / Every good thing has turned into something I dread / And I’m playing the victim so well in my head / But it’s me who’s been making the bed,” she sang. 

A large crescent moon lowered from the ceiling, carrying Rodrigo around the United Center during “logical” and “enough for you.” A wave of screams rippled through the venue as Rodrigo floated in front of each section.

The delicate and desperate falsetto of “lacy” established the song as one of the show’s most intimate moments, captivating the crowd with themes of envy and self-loathing.

Rodrigo lifted the crowd’s mood leading into “jealousy, jealousy,” advising fans to hug the people they were attending the show with. 

“I miss my friends when I’m on tour,” Rodrigo said to the crowd. “I’m jealous.”

Proceeding with “Can’t Catch Me Now,” which Rodrigo wrote for the November film “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” a blue light shined over her and the backup vocalists. Airy vocalizations and seamless harmonies built subtle tension, coinciding with the song’s mysterious tone.

Rodrigo revealed “happier” was the first song she crafted for her debut album “SOUR,” making the performance with only her and her guitarist on stage even more special. The audience swayed flashlights in the air while loudly singing along.

The singer had several outfit changes throughout the night. (Ella Govrik / The Phoenix)

Deafening belts from the audience amplified during “favorite crime,” blanketing the arena with genuine rage and sadness.

Following “deja vu” and “the grudge,” lights lining the stage flooded the venue with hues of red and orange. Rodrigo emerged in a pink romper, jumping across the stage from one catwalk to the other while energizing the crowd for the punkier tracks of the setlist.

Red lighting and a heavy kick drum introduced “obsessed,” an unreleased track set to release March 22 alongside the deluxe version of “GUTS,” which she announced during her first night in Chicago. Her edgiest song yet, “obsessed,” consisted of Rodrigo laying atop a clear section of the stage with a camera positioned underneath her, projecting the view onto the backdrop.

The setlist concluded with “all-american bitch,” which playfully alternates from gentle singing and tame guitar plucking to screaming vocals bolstered by explosive instrumentals — aptly encapsulating the duality of Rodrigo’s artistry.

The singer waved goodbye and left the stage as the lights dimmed. Not long after, a familiar voice rang through the arena.

“Did you miss me?” Rodrigo asked, returning for a two-song encore.

“good 4 u” reignited the crowd’s excitement  before “get him back!” ended the concert with whiny and carefree pop-punk vocals. 

Both nostalgically angsty and appropriately mature, the performance concluded as star-shaped confetti rained onto concertgoers, celebrating not only an exhilarating night but an established popstar.

Featured images by Ella Govrik / The Phoenix

Ella Govrik

Ella Govrik