Willow Rocks Chicago at the Vic

Article by: Abby Utley

Photography by: Nick Langlois @thenicklangois

There are few ways that being short comes in handy. For one, I am closer to the ground, so my clumsiness poses no real threat to my life. Secondly, I feel more connected to short kings. Thirdly, and more related to this article, I can burrow through tight crowds. On Sunday, I made my way to the front of the Vic Theatre stage so that I could breathe the same air as Willow Smith.

Minutes before she came on, the crowd buzzed with anticipation, chanting “Willow, Willow, Willow!” I can imagine this lifted her spirits before she bounded on stage to begin her set with “transparentsoul.” I could feel the Doc Martens Coalition (DMC) around me growing more powerful and rhythmically charged as the girl on stage with buzzed hair and an oversized Def Leopard t-shirt executed her craft. Willow’s strong stage presence was totally effortless. She let her body swing and her head pulse to the fast-paced drum beat. I’ve never seen someone move so freely and so precisely at the same time. Willow Smith is punk-pop incarnate.

When she performs, Willow points her attention directly to the audience, especially those in the very front, pouring out her lyrics with an earnest expectancy. It’s impossible not to respond because she performs with so much feeling and intuition. The night was an extremely interactive experience. That being said, standing near the stage barricade was not for the faint of heart, as she’s sure to steal yours if she looks your way. 

Photo: Nick Langlois @thenicklangois

The pit stirred when Willow sang out her punkiest tracks like those on her latest album “lately I feel EVERYTHING.” The light moshing did indeed make me feel everything, to the point that my toes could no longer feel anything. Worth it. The audience maintained this kinetic energy for Tyler Cole, as he joined Willow in performing songs from their joint project THE ANXIETY, including “Meet Me At Our Spot.” Tyler and Willow were super happy to perform together. It was clear through their body language and eye contact that they aimed to connect with one another on stage. 

I notice sometimes at concerts that the instrumentals can overpower the live vocals. This was not the case during Willow’s performance. The inner volume of The Vic Theatre complimented her voice incredibly and created a balanced sound that coated the venue evenly from front to back. Like any hero story, I know this because before I got to the front, I was just another lowly shorty in the back. Anyways, I was happy to be able to watch her lips move and actually match what I saw to what I heard. When I think back upon Sunday night, every single one of my senses has its own pleasant memory file. Did I feel welcomed by the fan base, however? Absolutely not! If I had a dollar for every time I received a grungey up-down stare from someone with thick black eyeliner, boots, a choker, and a skater skirt, then I would be a rich shorty. The pre-show for me was characterized mostly by passive aggression. But was this followed by a performance that made me feel welcomed and seen? Yes, absolutely! I wish Miss Smith nothing but continual inspiration because she’s really just a special talent to behold.

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