SZA Rebel, Toronto ON, August 23

SZA Rebel, Toronto ON, August 23
Photo: Stephen McGill
It's understandable that even some of the best artists will occasionally have a less than perfect night. Such was the case of SZA returning to Toronto.
A preface: the 26-year-old from St. Louis by way of New Jersey (real name Solána Imani Rowe) is perhaps one of the most intriguing artists of the last few years. A supremely talented singer-songwriter, she has her finger on the pulse of today's genre-free zeitgeist. Her musical output, notably 2014's Z and this year's gem, CTRL — with its masterful blend of R&B and pop — is a definite "Best of 2017" candidate.
Toronto, a place that has always shown her love, was the latest stop of her CTRL tour, a tour that had been push back "due to unforeseen circumstances" and which had its first three U.S. dates postponed. So Toronto was among the first stops to work out the kinks of the live show; there was a stop-start energy to the proceedings as SZA and her band worked out the setlist.
"What the f*ck is good, Toronto!" she announced to an appreciative crowd before launching in "Supermodel" off CTRL.  SZA has clearly grown as a live performer. Through "Anything," "Broken Clocks," "Go Gina" and the standout "Drew Barrymore," there was a naturalness to her stage personality, a "we're all in this together" vibe that is unforced and refreshing.
"Anyone know me before this album? Don't lie," she said playfully with the crowd before delving into some Z cuts including "HiiiJack," "UR" and "Child's Play."
Bouncing back to CTRL, "Love Galore" and "The Weekend" arrived to thunderous reception. And when "Doves in the Wind" started up — "Real n*ggas do not deserve p*ssy!" — there was a nervous energy knowing that TDE rostermate Kendrick Lamar was performing on the same night, just a few blocks away. But alas, there would be no Lamar guest spot as his verse played over the sound system. No matter — SZA was enough.
And that's just it: even SZA not in peak form is heads above most others. Her Toronto show was imperfectly perfect and pleasing, all in its own way.

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