Glowing, single-flame candles are subtly dispersed around the stage, creating a vintage, speakeasy aesthetic, intriguing the anticipative audience. Concealed under dim, haunting lights, ZZ Ward takes center stage. Emerging from the darkness, a soulful voice, with a hint of sass and snarl belts out the first song of the night. The crowd cannot contain themselves as they cheer and dance to the beat of this pivotal tune. With just a few notes, Oregon native ZZ Ward hypnotized every patron inside the sold out Troubadour in Los Angeles.
Opening with her new single “Sex & Stardust,” ZZ Ward showcased her unique vocal talents and writing abilities. The song rises with a mysterious, alluring chord progression that meshes harmoniously with Ward’s R&B influenced vocal spark, shaped by her idols Muddy Waters and Big Mama Thornton. Embodying the character of a woman in a hypnotic state, Ward’s feisty snarls ingeniously encapsulate the clandestine tone of this song. The single alludes to a relationship that brings out aspects of a person that were hidden deep within their essence. As Ward describes it, “[It’s] about being under someone’s spell.” (Refinery29, Dec. 2019). As the show progressed, this bewitching tune segued into a set full of expressive, multifaceted compositions.
Exploring genres throughout her set, Ward’s songs are influenced by rock, hip-hop, R&B, and the blues. Between the triumphant memorial “Ghost” and the desperate pleas of “Put the Gun Down,” from the joyous, adventurous “Ride” to the smooth, soulful “Lil Darlin’,” ZZ Ward embodies the presence of a dynamic musical legend.
Outside of her vocal strides, ZZ Ward possesses an abundance of musical gifts. Performing the song as an acoustic ballad, “Last Love Song” showcases Ward’s uncanny ability to harmonize guitars and soft strings with soothing vocals. In contrast, during “365 Days,” Ward set down her guitar and hopped over to the piano, where she displayed her outstanding aptitudes as a pianist. However, Ward had one more surprise up her sleeve. After throwing on her signature fedora, she surreptitiously slid a harmonica out of her pocket, cupped it in her hands, and started rocking away with a fluid ease. The audience cheered, overwhelmed by this phenomenal display of talent amidst the song “Grinnin’ In Your Face.” This multifaceted artist seamlessly transitions from one song to the next, manufacturing an unforgettable performance and transformative, interactive experience for the audience.
During the set, ZZ Ward also performed the song “Giant,” which has not been released yet. The song encapsulates Ward’s soulful, strong vocals and talents as a songwriter, while focusing on the theme of discovering confidence. A release date for the song has not been provided, however, ZZ Ward’s current albums The Storm and Til the Casket Drops are available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and YouTube. The Stardust Tour ends March 22, so be sure to snatch some tickets while they last.