Show Review and Photos by Brian Mecinas
Every color of the rainbow descended upon The Van Buren on a lively Friday night in Arizona.
The excitement in the air was tangible throughout the vibrant line of countless concert-goers that poured out of the building and stretched around an entire city block. For one night only, indie-pop phenomenon Chappell Roan had brought her Midwest Princess Tour to Phoenix, performing for a crowd that had completely sold out the venue just minutes prior to doors opening. With the recent release of her highly anticipated debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, tickets for the vast majority of her tour dates have been in high demand as Roan sets out to spark a cascade of queer joy across the continent.
Just nine months prior, the glittery pop icon had launched her first North American headlining tour in Phoenix at the neighboring Crescent Ballroom. Seeing firsthand the level of growth Roan had achieved in less than a year was spectacular, to say the least, as she leaped from a 500-person ballroom to a 2,000-person concert hall.
One of the highlights of Roan’s shows is her commitment to uplifting drag performers from the local queer scenes of each city she visits, inviting them out to fill the opening slot that a supporting act normally would. The crowd in Phoenix were greeted with dazzling performances by local queens Salem Vee, Ben Whitneybell, and Sayyora DeMornay.
After a parade of movement and flawless lip synching delivered by each queen came to a close, the crowd of colorful fans chatted amongst themselves as they eagerly awaited the start of Roan’s set. Much to their pleasure, it wasn’t long before the lights dimmed and a pink-tinted haze spread across the stage. With the signature whirlwind of orchestra strings that marked the start of “Femininomenon,” Roan and her band assumed their positions onstage, welcomed by a wave of cheers that almost overpowered the song itself.
Having assigned rainbow-themed attire as the designated theme for the night, Roan did not disappoint. Wrapped in a stunning, iridescent sash made of what seemed to be flower-shaped foil balloons in various color combinations, one would imagine that she had come ready for the fruitiest pool party in town. The dedication to crafting jaw-dropping costumes for her tour only served as further proof that Roan is crafting an entire universe within her discography, one that fans are pulled into throughout the course of each show.
Keeping her initial momentum going, Roan flew through fiery tracks “Red Wine Supernova” and “After Midnight” to round out the first chunk of her setlist. The two vibrant songs joined the already plentiful group of danceable pop hits off of her debut album. It was clear that she had prepared well for the tour, as Roan was in a constant state of dance as she made her way back and forth from each end of the stage, often interacting cheerfully with the members of her band.
A personal highlight of the night was in the live rendition of "Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl," which is arguably the most fast-paced and electrifying of the previously unheard upbeat songs on the album. If there was any doubt that Roan could translate this energy into her live performance, it was immediately cast away when the song started. The combination of her fervent movements and breathtaking vocals sent the crowd into an ecstatic frenzy as Roan belted out "Uh huh, I’m through / with all these super mega bummer boys like you / Oh yeah, I need a super graphic ultra-modern girl like me." Even after the end of the song, the grip she held on the crowd only tightened as she transitioned into fan-favorite “HOT TO GO!,” which can be likened to a campy Gen-Z parallel to “Y.M.C.A” for those who are unfamiliar. Pausing only to give everyone a quick rundown of the signature dance that accompanies the song, Roan’s energy was infectious. It was hard to spot a single person in the crowd that didn’t have their arms in the air, following along to the dance to the best of their ability.
The remainder of the set saw a consistent rise and fall in tempo as Roan cycled through various eras of her discography, performing recognized hits like “Naked in Manhattan” and "My Kink is Karma,” and paying homage to the start of her music career with soulful renditions of “Bitter” and “School Nights.” Closing the night was “Pink Pony Club,” the track that many consider the start of the current era of the artist’s career. As a flood of pink light filled the room, the crowd bounced up and down, matching the cathartic movements on stage. With each song, Roan’s incomparable talent was on full display, demonstrating the multitudes that the pop icon contains within her widening range of music and setting high expectations for future projects to come.