SZA Garibaldi Stage, Squamish BC, August 7
Published Aug 08, 2015Solana Rowe, a.k.a. SZA, appears to have come a long way since she turned in a respectable if underwhelming set at the Pitchfork Music Fest in 2014 (as you can read in Stephen Carlick's review). It could have been the mountains, but she was flying high in her set at Squamish.
There was no pre-show music playing as the Maplewood, New Jersey-based singer's band tested beats in the monitors and checked mics to a smattering of unfortunate catcalls and mild applause from the fidgety crowd. Hearing her before seeing her, Rowe walked out from the wings singing in near darkness. She hit centre stage as the lights cast their blue glow about her, revealing a legit Vancouver Grizzlies jersey under her jacket, as her stunningly soulful voice soared over the sluggish beat of "UR."
After her first song, SZA professed her desire to move to Vancouver, citing the craziest scenery, craziest air, craziest people and craziest weed. Plumes of the latter would billow throughout her set, which confirmed her notion that these were her people.
Backed up by a hell of a drummer, reigning down bass-heavy beats and two keyboardists, a girl on a Roland Juliter-80 and Nord Stage and a guy on Korg Kronos and Yamaha Motif ES7, SZA ate up the stage throughout her set. She grooved, backed up on it and told it what for, with so many ineffable inferences that all tapped into a profound connection to the music and the moment, while her vocals resonated with a distinctive richness that rendered inadequate any comparison to other neo-soul legends.
SZA, in short, has arrived.