SZA’s hotly anticipated tour stop at First Avenue was electric. 

Facing perhaps the most daunting of expectations, SZA managed to exceed every single one. The Minneapolis incarnation of her Ctrl tour was one of those nights that felt like it transcended concerts into the realm of a community spiritual experience. Here’s our five takeaways.

The untrained eye might think it’s a Smino show 

Opening for SZA on this tour are promising up-and-coming Chicago hip-hopper Ravyn Lenae and melodic rap favorite Smino. St. Louis’ new favorite son absolutely killed it. The crowd was rapping along with all the words to “Netflix & Ducce” and “Anita.” One would imagine this is the last time Smino, his band, and excellent backup singers will be on a Twin Cities bill in any position other than headlining.

Breathtaking from the jump

The passionate audience’s adoration for her was palpable, and could be seen within the first few songs when SZA asked the crowd to borrow someone’s inhaler. Within moments, a fan handed her one, she puffed, graciously passed it back, and the night continued. 

Timeless superstardom

In front of giant, light-up “CTRL” letters in that font normally reserved for ’70s network specials, SZA’s powerful vocals and dynamic stage movements had the polish and power of a veteran. The smooth swaying-to-staccato transitions on “Broken Clocks” were enrapturing.

Stirring sing-alongs

Along with the men loudly rapping along unchanged word-for-word with lyrics that were definitively from a woman’s perspective (a rare sight in the often testosterone-heavy hyper-masculine vibe of a hip-hop show) SZA left Kendrick Lamar’s “Doves in the Wind” verse completely intact as it played over the speakers, causing the entire audience to rap right along with it. SZA made that type of masterful crowd control look effortless.

Pure satisfaction

In addition to performing tracks from Ctrl, SZA surprised fans by reaching back into her pre-Ctrl work, and closed the show after a very short pre-encore period with “The Weekend” and “20 Something.” Reflecting on the set, I realized that just about every song summoned a different fan in attendance to declare the track their “Favorite.” After a jam-packed August of concerts, it’s telling that SZA had such a tremendous turnout.

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