Concerts at New York City’s Irving Plaza are always a hit or miss. Depending upon the artist, the venue can be packed to an uncomfortable capacity with overzealous fans intimately close to their favorite artist—compared to other venues scattered across Manhattan.
In singer JoJo’s case, we’re dealing with 13 years of a fanbase who at this point seem like total professional concertgoers. The line stretched around the block—a hodgepodge of twenty-somethings (around JoJo’s age of 26), thirty-somethings, and some random additions plus or minus ten years. Culturally diverse, and just kind of standing there waiting together. Why is that even relevant? Because JoJo has had the unique privilege of sitting at different cafeteria tables for the tenure of her career and has always been welcomed with open arms.
We’re about two years removed from her “comeback” narrative, so it no longer needs to punctuate every sentence surrounding the star. Here’s a tweet-length recap though: shady label dealings as a child left JoJo barred from retailing music into young adulthood. She found her loophole, got out (puns!), and here she is. 2015’s III (pronounced “tringle”) gave us three songs that were the perfect trifecta of words to describe JoJo at the time: vulnerable, grown, and hopeful. By the time her LP Mad Love arrived in October of last year, her pregnant pause from fame was long forgotten. What’s always remembered though is that JoJo is a pro…and a damn good one. Her first of three New York stops for the 'Mad Love Tour' proved that nothing has changed in that department.
Stanaj warmed up the crowd in all of his hypebeasty adorableness, playing selections off his From A Distance EP plus a spot-on cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You.” At sharply 9:15pm (because once again, #pro) JoJo hit the stage, opening with the rhythmically poignant “Clovers” off Mad Love. She moved into her “tringle” cut “When Love Hurts” before showering us with the nostalgic “Leave (Get Out).”
No matter the JoJo era—from her eponymous debut to The High Road, her freebies during the label binding days (her cover of Drake’s “Marvin’s Room” being the most notorious), III, and up to this moment of Mad Love—the crowd knew every word and sung it all in unison. And JoJo gave the sold-out audience what they wanted: flawless vocals, sliding up and down the mic stand, gyrating against the drum kit, and synchronized dances with her background singers. When “High Heels” came around, she brought Stanaj back on stage, tied him up, blindfolded him, gave him a lap dance, and he staggered off stage with an erection.
It took about three laps and multiple hair flips for anyone to even notice Zayn Malik was in the building watching the show, a testament to how JoJo captivates her crowd. DNCE’s JinJoo watched on from the VIP, but someone should have handed her a guitar because that would be quite a duo. When JoJo performed “F.A.B.,” Remy Ma walked out for her verse amidst mass hysteria. She followed with “Fuck Apologies” and rapped Wiz Khalifa’s verse in the middle of the crowd. JoJo closed with Mad Love’s title track, tying the whole experience together. And an encore of “Good Thing” made the mission complete.
The marvelous thing about JoJo is that she resides in this ambiguous place—where you can say with confidence that you attended either a pop show or an R&B show with flecks of hip-hop. Her pre-concert/self-curated ‘90s rap playlist blaring through Irving Plaza’s speakers is a testament to that. JoJo has weathered a storm and seen some shit, and you hear that with every note she sings live, even the fun ones. And it’s clear her crowd has been riding with her the whole time.