Friday night at the Great American Music Hall was filled with purple: Purple-clad teens and purple decorations at the venue formed a fitting thematic tribute to the first song off of Olivia O’Brien’s new album, Was It Even Real? Fans anxiously awaited O’Brien’s final performance of her national tour. This show was particularly special for the artist — not only did it serve as her last concert on the tour, but it was also the first show since the album was released.
She began her show with a flowing narrative poem about living in a “purple world,” echoing her song with the same title. Throughout the night she integrated old favorites like “hate u love u” with new bops like “Just A Boy.” It seemed as though many fans were already familiar with her new music despite its recent release date. Regardless of whichever era O’Brien’s songs came from, the audience routinely sang along.
Bathed in purple lights and backed by a neon “was it even real” sign, Olivia O’Brien swayed and moved with the crowd. Though most of her songs have a slow, smooth vibe to them, O’Brien still managed to intertwine them into a fun concert experience. She jumped up and down, danced to the best of her ability and spoke to the audience when she could.
O’Brien also made her deep love and appreciation for the Bay Area clear, as she threw in anecdotes revolving around how she grew up in Napa Valley. “Not too far from here,” O’Brien noted. She later explained to the audience, “It’s always my favorite to play shows here. Everyone’s better here,” further signaling her appreciation for San Francisco and the audience around her.
O’Brien’s performance was clearly catered to the younger members of this audience. This focus was evident from the sparkling purple lights, the slew of iPhones persistently raised and the excited screaming that erupted when O’Brien’s boyfriend Toddy Smith, famous for his YouTube presence, took the stage to accompany her on the piano. While his surprise was cute, he completely stole the show away from O’Brien. Smith has a very large social media following, and in a crowd of many teenage girls, this trumped O’Brien’s smooth vocals. Ironically, a show supposedly about “facing the peer pressures that come with growing up in a social media obsessed world” was superseded by a man known for his social media presence.
Even before he entered the stage, Smith’s presence was a distraction. Throughout O’Brien’s performance, fans were constantly looking toward the boxed area where he stood, hoping he’d make an appearance. Even those in the audience who were unfamiliar with her famous partner couldn’t help but look up whenever fans turned around. O’Brien’s performance was beautiful and her vocals echoed throughout the halls of the Great American, but that supposedly wasn’t enough for many young fans who just wanted to catch a glimpse of her boyfriend.
When the attention was focused on O’Brien, however, she used the audience’s age to her advantage. This was most clearly shown through her choice to perform a cover of “Nobody’s Perfect,” originally sung by Disney Channel star Hannah Montana (played by Miley Cyrus). This was a smart move on O’Brien’s part. Those in the audience who were a little older remembered Cyrus’ Disney stint, and even the younger members of the audience were excited at the surprise.
O’Brien ended the show alone on her electric guitar, making the show seem all the more intimate. Rather than leaving the stage and returning to do an encore, O’Brien announced she would simply stay on the stage by herself and perform. She ended the show with a performance of “Love Myself.” This was the perfect way to end the night — the chords on her electric guitar coincided beautifully with her vocals.
Olivia O’Brien’s performance echoed a lot of what is covered in her repertoire. As a 19-year-old pop artist, she’s bound to attract a younger audience, particularly with content surrounding topics such as heartbreak, partying and social media. While her content may not be relatable to a large amount of the adult population, she still managed to give a performance that displayed her vocal range and growing inventory of sultry pop tunes. The young artist is sure to have a bright purple future in her career.