In my four years at UBC, I’ve never attended an event at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. I could not have picked a better first concert here.
The Vancouver performance of Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour tour took place on April 7, 2022. This concert marks Rodrigo’s first concert in Vancouver, and what a concert it was. Despite doors opening at 7 p.m., long lines were present around the venue for hours beforehand, causing a delayed start to the concert. However, Gracie Abrams’ raw vocals soon warmed up the crowd, setting high expectations for Rodrigo.
As the lights dimmed, the crowd’s excited chatter turned to screams. The purple curtains slid open to reveal the 19-year-old singer, looking confident in the spotlight. The punky “brutal” kicked off her performance, with punchy guitar notes juxtaposing vulnerable lyrics, such as “They say these are the golden years / But I wish I could disappear.”
“jealousy, jealousy,” Rodrigo’s ode to teenage envy, was quickly followed by the song that jumpstarted her career: “drivers license.” A crowd favourite, “drivers license” was initially performed on the piano, creating an intimate atmosphere before the rest of the instruments joined in at the chorus. With lyrics like, “You said forever / Now I drive alone past your street,” Rodrigo perfectly captures the way a relationship lingers in the space between promises and reality. During the well-known bridge, the crowd was bathed in red, creating the illusion of the “red lights" and "stop signs” that the song references.
After a few covers — notably Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” which Rodrigo described as one of her favourite songs — the young performer turned things down a notch. Blending “hope ur ok” with “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” Rodrigo crafted an ethereal moment where even the crowd softened — a moment of peace suspended in time.
The serenity was short-lived; the California-born singer’s “favorite crime,” a song that shakes its head at the self-degradation done in the name of love, poisoned the light tone with a twinge of bitterness.
Having played almost the entire album, Rodrigo said that she had one last thing to ask the crowd before diving into the final two songs of her setlist: “Do you get deja vu?” The high-pitched, staccato notes of the referenced song soon filled the arena.
Rodrigo then went all out in her mock finale, "good 4 u," laying down on the piano to deliver the passionate lyrics in style. The crowd screamed the lyrics “like a damn sociopath” during the highpoint of the song, clearly showing that Rodrigo’s ironic compliment — “good for you, you’re doing great out there without me, baby” — is not a unique experience.
A brief instrumental followed, though not long enough for fans to question whether Rodrigo wouldn’t be performing an encore after all. As the musical crescendo faded away, the star of the evening strode back out. She was soon joined by her close friend Conan Gray to perform an acoustic duet of Katy Perry’s “The One that Got Away” as the closing song of the concert.
Gray had his own performance that evening at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre that started around the same time as Rodrigo’s. Suddenly, the slow start to the 19-year-old’s concert made sense — she was buying Gray time to make the drive from downtown. The concert’s final moments were filled with harmonies and hugs, creating a lasting impression of comfort as the crowd spilled out of the theatre and into the rain-speckled streets.
Even with the long lines, cramped hallways, and delayed start, I couldn’t have asked for a better first concert at UBC.