As I have said previously, American Express is right at the top of the list of brands that understands musicians. And that means knowing how to work with artists, including setting up the right type of events to show off their strengths.
Monday night (October 9) in L.A. was a perfect example. Am Ex presented Olivia Rodrigo in a very intimate show, by her standards at least, at the Theater at the Ace Hotel. The show was the perfect format for Rodrigo. She and producer Dan Nigro (who worked with Rodrigo on both Sour and GUTS) did the show in a VH-1 Storytellers or [Bruce] Springsteen on Broadway format, playing songs from the new album and telling stories behind each song.
The format was so effective for the duo because of the ease and comfort ability between the pair and Rodrigo’s absolute charm as a narrator. Taking the stage to a deafening roar just after 8 Rodrigo launched straight into the smash “Vampire,” accompanied by the audience yelling the refrain of “Bloodsucker, famef**ker, bleedin’ me dry, like a goddamn vampire” with the fervor of 20,000 fans.
She then settled into the emcee role, introducing her “friend/collaborator” Dan. She pointed out this was the first time that they were playing many of the GUTS tracks live. And Nigro joked, showing the ease between them, “We get to tell you stories that will make Olivia very, very uncomfortable.”
“We collected a lot of funny, interesting, weird tidbits along the way,” she said. “Hopefully Dan doesn’t embarrass me too much.”
Among the early “tidbits” was that Rodrigo went to college at USC where she studied poetry, leading to the song “Lacy.” They then spent the next seven minutes casually chatting about when they first met, started working together and more, leading into a “rocking out” version of “Ballad Of A Homeschooled Girl” that got the crowd on their feet.
One thing Rodrigo excels at is capturing the angst of youth and alienation in her lyrics, so the crowd also enjoyed fervently yelling along with the passage “It’s social suicide.” She is a gifted songwriter, and being able to tap into those feelings is one of the true time-honored traditions of great rock/pop songwriting.
From Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” The Who’s “My Generation” and Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen,” to Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” the annals of rock are filled with great youth anthems. And it’s a special gift for those who can do them authentically, and Rodrigo definitely has that skill set.
At heart she has a singer/songwriter mentality. And Am Ex gave her the venue and format to show everyone that side of her.
The show is currently up on her YouTube channel