‘The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess’ captured hearts in New York, moving at a clip through heartbreak and joy
My Chappell Roan concert experience begins as I exit the subway—young women walk Grand Street in holographic cowboy boots paired with sequined dresses, sporting glitter on their eyes and shoulders. Beyond the girly, kitschy aesthetics, they recognize in each other the shared excitement of getting to see the “Pink Pony Club” singer, who will no doubt be dressed in a similarly ostentatious get-up for her second sold-out night at Brooklyn Steel.
Roan does not disappoint: Clad in a purple-and-gold bedazzled bustier complete with fringed shoulders and hips, the Missouri-born artist strides across the stage with her fiery red mane flowing like a cape. Despite The Midwest Princess being her first headlining international tour, Roan’s presence feels seasoned as she switches effortlessly between vaudevillian antics and pop-royalty-level confidence. In her most over-the-top number “HOT TO GO!,” the performer has the packed venue singing the chorus with her as they pantomime in unison, laughing together.
Chappell Roan’s persona is a mix of singer-songwriter authenticity and performer pastiche, informed by Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and drag artistry. She embraces the confessional lyricism of Olivia Rodrigo—no shocker that Roan will be opening for her GUTS tour later this year—which fans respond to both online and at her shows. “‘Casual’ definitely goes way harder than I expected it to when I released it,” she tells Document, speaking to her album-defining ballad about an unlabeled relationship. “I was like, ‘Whatever, I don’t know how people are going to feel about this song,’ and people really loved it! I like the song even more now because of [how it feels to] perform it live.”
It’s easy to see why: Practically the entire venue chants, “I fucked you in the bathroom when we went to dinner / Your parents at the table, you wonder why I’m bitter,” with fervor, as if they experienced this very betrayal themselves. Yet a Chappell Roan show doesn’t linger in its feelings for long—the singer moves at a clip, taking us through the heartbreak, elation, and unbridled joy that characterize her album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. “Naked in Manhattan” brings about one of the night’s more transcendent moments, as thousands shout, “Touch me! Touch me! Touch me!,” like Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
For the openly queer singer, creating an inclusive, friendly environment at her shows is imperative. Every stop on Roan’s tour has opened with performances by local drag queens. “If you haven’t been to a drag show before, that’s okay—now you have” she says between songs, reminding her audience to tip the performers. During another interlude, Roan tells the audience that a dollar from every ticket goes to For The Gworls, a nonprofit geared towards the Black trans community. “So you’re supporting them just by being here,” she adds.
At just 25 years old, Roan understands the importance of queer stewardship, especially when it comes to an audience that’s growing up with her. I run into Grace after the show, a longtime fan who feels the kinship. “I saw [Roan] in Boston six months ago at a smaller venue, and she wasn’t as practiced, chatting with us in a sweet and natural way—but tonight she was just sharp and amazing.”
This bodes well for the rest of Roan’s tour, which will cover Europe and Australia next. She’s just as excited as her fans: “I think it would be so fun to [see] what the album feels like in Amsterdam. I’ve never been to Berlin, and I think that would be really amazing. Just connecting faces and energies from online to real life, that is going to be magical.”
At Brooklyn Steel, magic happens when Roan covers Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” telling us to put our paws up—and we do so without hesitation. It’s a bold cover, and she more than meets the challenge, dancing music video choreography with ease. Could she be Gen Z’s Gaga? We’ll have to watch the Midwest princess go international to find out.