Few artists have had as stratospheric a rise as Olivia Rodrigo-the 18-year-old California native spent her teens writing songs, performing, acting and playing piano, so she was ready for the spotlight when it came to the smash success of “Drivers License,” her first single and first #1 hit. Her platinum-selling, self-penned debut LP Sour has turned her into a star-as reflected in her debut appearance on Austin City Limits.
Rodrigo’s all-female five-piece band took the ACL stage and laid down an atmospheric intro before the star herself came bounding out barefoot for the defiant self-doubt of “Brutal,” the chorus of which immediately became call-and-response. The singer and band went immediately into the anthem “Déjà Vu,” on which the eager crowd became her backup singers. It was clearly time for a power ballad, which meant the heartbroken waltz “Happier” – “I hope you’re happy, but don’t be happier.” That was followed by the angry, power chord-kissed rocker “Jealousy, Jealousy,” an attack on the false expectations fueled by social media. Rodrigo introduced her all-girl band before sitting down at the piano for “the first song I ever put out, and it’s really special to me.” That, of course, meant the colossal hit “Drivers License,” amplified by delirious audience participation – adding handclaps on the build and singing a chorus on their own.
Rodrigo remained at the piano for “Traitor,” a heart-on-sleeve piano ballad that turned into a showcase for her ability to channel her emotions into universal understanding. Guitarist Heather Baker fingerpicked her acoustic guitar, while fellow axeperson Arianna Powell moved to pedal steel for the folky “Favorite Crime,” which was clearly a crowd favorite. A crewmember brought a stool and acoustic guitar, which Rodrigo used for “Enough For You,” a compelling solo performance. She and the band ended the show with megahit “Good 4 U,” the blazing rocker that’s equalled the success of “Drivers License” on the charts and earned high-energy pogoing from the ecstatic audience. “Thank you, guys!!”, said Rodrigo, as the crowd went wild. It was a standout performance from a performer with a long and exciting career ahead of her, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this December on your local PBS station.