It was hard to make out exactly what was happening at first. The doors at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles had only been open for a few minutes and Olivia Rodrigo fans were scampering around the venue’s foyer, choosing whether to get in line for exclusive merch, go upstairs for a “matcha experience,” hit up one of the many selfie stations and photo booths, or use the restroom before the women’s lines became untenable (some enterprising young ladies eventually just stormed the men’s room, which seemed very reasonable all things considered). But occasionally, eruptions of noise exploded from within the crowd, the kind of noise usually reserved for when an A-list celebrity is spotted at a show.
After some investigation, the case was solved: videographers were moving throughout the venue, having groups of fans do their best Olivia screams into the camera, reenacting one of the most iconic moments from her recently released and universally beloved sophomore album, Guts. It comes from the album’s first song, “All-American Bitch,” in which Rodrigo follows an offhanded mention of screaming by performing the act, a move less common on pop records but at home among some of her other sonic influences, be it ’90s grunge or ’00s pop-punk.
Toward the end of her hour-long set, she gave the song its proper live debut, but not before discussing the recording of the aforementioned scream in her collaborator Dan Nigro’s garage, and how the many takes left her without a voice. When the time came for her to deliver on that moment, she wasn’t alone, with many in the audience taking the opportunity to sing,… err, scream along. It was catharsis reduced down to its most molecular form. Olivia seemed proud.
The concert, held by American Express as part of their Members Week for a show dubbed “American Express Presents: An Evening with Olivia Rodrigo,” saw the live debut of a number of Guts tunes, along with stories from Rodrigo and Nigro from the recording sessions. Fans were treated to anecdotes about how “The Grudge” almost didn’t make the album, how The Smiths influenced her lyrics, why Nigro wouldn’t order her wine at a restaurant, and the time his baby threw up on Olivia’s face. Amex made the evening feel like more than just a performance with their bells and whistles, including the aforementioned installations and free tacos to all ticket holders upon exiting. And at a mere $25 per ticket with secondary market options disabled, the proceeds from the event were assured to Rodrigo’s new nonprofit Fund 4 Good.
The lasting thought from the show, though, is how ready her fans are to sing these new songs with thousands of their compatriots at Rodrigo’s massive arena tour that will take place across 2024. Over the last couple of years, artists like Harry Styles, SZA, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé have taken touring to a new level in the public consciousness thanks to everything from post-lockdown IRL yearning to social media’s unique facility for amplification. 2024 will undoubtedly see this continue with artists like Rodrigo, Zach Bryan, and Noah Kahan already breaking ticket sites and seeing entry costs skyrocket. While it is certainly a bummer to see secondary resellers making money off this phenomenon, the flipside is that the feverish demand to see today’s of-the-moment artists speaks to a new era of live music, one that will certainly experience plenty of highs and lows and fixes and evolution as artists try to reach more of their fans in an equitable manner.
This new era is already being felt in just how people interact in live spaces. From Beyonce’s “On Mute” to Taylor’s surprise songs, communal, sharable moments are serving multiple functions, as they provide memories to people in attendance and FOMO to those catching up as they scroll, anticipating their own chance to experience it live and in person. For Rodrigo, it will certainly be the scream, the guttural, raw moment of being as un-pretty as possible that feels in tune with a generation putting aside the need for IG perfection. And if it is anything like Monday night’s concert, it will absolutely be worth it.
Check out American Express Presents: An Evening with Olivia Rodrigo on YouTube, dropping today (10/10) at 5 pm PST.