Arts & Entertainment, Features, Reviews

REVIEW: Zolita ‘brings it’ to Boston with a refreshing, surprising performance

Waiting in a line at Sonia in Cambridge last night that snaked around the building, another audience member’s comment summed up my thoughts exactly:

“Is this the line for Zolita? Damn!”

Although Spotify describes her as an “emerging alt-pop icon,” Zolita has skyrocketed to stardom through a viral trilogy of music videos. With over a million monthly listeners, Zolita set out on her first North American headline tour.

Zolita’s concert Feb 22. The line at Sonia in Cambridge snaked around the building for the concert. COURTESY OF STELLA TANNENBAUM

Bubbly opener Lulu Simon set a welcoming and warm tone for the evening, with a unique and angelic voice that warranted an immediate Spotify follow.

Beyond her stunning vocals, I appreciated her transparency with the audience, as she explained the meaning behind each song before singing it. She sang about friendships come and gone with strong emotions that music often reserves for romantic relationships.

I will say, with the loving endearment one might use toward a small child or elderly grandparent, the audience was so deeply, noticeably millennial. From the cheers when the opener used the phrase “slay o’clock” to the abundance of skinny jeans, the sheer quantity of queer millennial women was overwhelming but also oddly heartwarming.

When I spoke with her before the concert, Zolita described how she enjoyed taking on a persona that is so far away from her own for the “Crazy Ex” music video. I asked if she’d perform the song as herself or as this character during her concerts, and she said she’d perform as herself but would certainly bring elements of that character to the performance.

And bring it she did.

The lights flashed red and the crowd went wild with the chance to collectively channel their inner slightly unhinged “crazy ex in red stilettos” with endless energy.

Drummer Caitlin Kalafus and guitarist Andrea Ferrero made the performance complete. Wherever I looked on stage, each performer appeared to be having a truly contagious amount of fun. During “Evil Angel” in particular, Ferrero’s expressions were impossible to look away from, and I enjoyed the song even more thoroughly live than I do when listening.

But by far the most surreal experience of the night was Zolita’s performance of “Ashley.” I had seen on social media that Zolita brought a different “Ashley” on stage at every performance, so I was surprised when that did not happen this time.

Part of me was disappointed, as I was accompanied at the concert by an Ashley of my own, and it would’ve been fun for her to join Zolita on stage. But, truthfully, the song is so incredibly meaningful that it would’ve felt wrong if she wasn’t next to me.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the blend of her ballad “Orchard St.” fused with a fantastic rendition of Taylor Swift’s iconic “Cornelia Street.” The contrast between “I’d never walk Cornelia Street again” and “I’ll see you on Orchard St.” gave me chills the more I thought about it, and now I’ll never listen to one song without thinking about the other.

The performance of Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” — or, in this case, “Before She Cheats” — was both completely unexpected and completely on-brand for Zolita. Her music’s goal is to provide the kind of representation she wished she had growing up, and hearing the crowd screaming the lyrics to such a popular anthem with the pronouns modified, it was evident that she accomplished that goal.

After the energetic, unfiltered “20 Questions,” Zolita left the stage and I couldn’t help feeling unsatisfied. Apparently, the rest of the audience felt the same way, as the cheers continued and she returned to the stage for an encore, performing her iconic song “Somebody I F*cked Once.”

Seeing such a captivating stage presence in such a small venue felt like a dream. If she tours again, it’s safe to say I’ll be in the audience.

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