Review: Rina Sawayama Spreads the 102040 Virus in Chicago

Photo by Lillie Eiger

British-Japanese singer, model, and all-around talent, Rina Sawayama, performed at Chicago’s Subterranean as part of her second US tour – dubbed Ordinary Superstar Tour. Despite it only being her second time headlining in the States, Rina was greeted by a dedicated and enthusiastic fanbase and a sold-out crowd, showing that she’s anything, but ordinary.

Opening for Sawayama was singer and songwriter Dorian Electra, who started the concert with a flashy eight-song set. A non-binary and queer artist and a vocal feminist, Dorian Electra’s songs promoted love, body, and sex-positivity. Their setlist consisted of tracks including “Clitopia,” “Vibrator,” “Career Boy,” “Jackpot,” “Flamboyant,” and “VIP.” The singer also gave the crowd a sneak peek at their latest song “Man to Man,” which is yet to be released. In their set, Dorian Electra also performed a solo rendition of “Femmebot,” their collaboration with Charli XCX. From the flamboyant wardrobe to the high-energy songs and choreography, it was clear that the singer was the perfect opener for Sawayama’s show.

Taking to the stage right after was Rina Sawayama, who began her set with an ominous, smoke-filled entrance akin a scene from a sci-fi film. Stepping onto the stage along with her two backup dancers all clad in long, black coats and helmets, the scene led into her track, “Alterlife,” followed by “10-20-40.”

Sawayama’s set was like travelling back in time to the start of the millennium. Everything from her fashion, to her  to her infectious pop and smooth R&B tunes gave her set a feeling of throwback and nostalgia. Her setlist consisted mostly of songs from her debut EP RINA, including “Take Me As I Am” and “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome,” which she released in 2017, but also highlighted past and recent singles, such as “Valentine,” “Where U Are,” and her latest single “Cherry.” Contrary to the typically uplifting sound of her music, Sawayama’s lyrics often delved into heavier themes, such as loneliness, sadness, uncertainty, and unrequited love.

But overall, the night both started and ended on a happy note – one filled to the brim with love, positive energy, acceptance, and inclusivity. Rina Sawayama seems like she’s only just begun her journey as a superstar. She has nowhere else to go, but up.

Be sure to give Rina Sawayama a listen and check out her latest music video “Cherry” below!

Pearl Shin
Pearl Shin