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From Sick of Seventeen to a Teenage Dream: The Essence of the ‘Sour’ and ‘GUTS’ Tours, by Megan Harrison


All photos by Megan Harrison


In 2022, I saw Olivia Rodrigo as a freshman in college at her first tour ever


Almost two years later to the date, I saw Olivia Rodrigo as a junior in college at an almost sold-out show on her newest world tour. 


Sour was a groundbreaking album because it carried the angst behind crushes, breakups and fitting in that being a teenage girl automatically brings. I’d watched the first season of “High School Musical: The Musical, The Series,” so I knew all the lore that inspired the album (i.e., Rodrigo’s on and off-screen relationship with actor Joshua Bassett). Sour came out right as I was about to graduate high school and carried all that I felt with it. 


When Rodrigo released GUTS,” she was eager to showcase her growth. I was also in a bit of a different place in life. I felt understood, like we were both dealing with extensions of similar problems from the “Sour” era but with a few more years under our belts. I initially did not listen to “GUTS” as much as I had “Sour,” but joined the presale for the tour regardless. The “Sour” tour had been a kick drum full of adrenaline I hoped to experience again. 


One of my friends got into the “GUTS” presale and secured our tickets. The show happened two weeks ago, on a rainy Friday evening at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The enthralling tones of the kick drum were once again full of adrenaline, and I sang my heart out to songs from both of her albums. Olivia was great. 


Witnessing Olivia’s tours in both eras of her life was an amazing experience. It also meant that I could see her growth firsthand, both through her song lyrics and the structure of both tours. 


The shows had aspects that I enjoyed tremendously, but the first tour energy of “Sour” was hard to beat. Maybe that is personal preference, but regardless, both concerts incorporated so many elements to dissect that I walked away from both performances with an increased appreciation for the touring process.


“Sour” was my first general admission show and my first concert in four years, and man, what a concert to come back to. I was about 10 rows back from the stage. No one had ever seen Olivia in concert before! There was an incomparable excitement overflowing in the crowd that was almost strong enough to touch. 


At the show’s beginning, purple lights broadcast her name onto the curtain blocking the stage, and the song “Olivia” by One Direction began playing. Everyone thought she would appear onstage during the chorus of the song, but we ended up waiting another 15 minutes. 


Olivia did eventually appear onstage, curtains flying open after the opening guitar riffs of her title track brutal.” 


The crowd went wild, and rightfully so. Olivia was real and performing in front of us. The band was exceptional, and each instrument had its time to shine throughout the set list. The band made the “Sour” tour for me - from “brutal” to happier to the tour’s closing performance of good 4 you,” there was no break in intensity. 


She also included a few songs not on the album, performing All I Want,” one of her songs from the High School Musical TV show, and a cover of Avril Lavigne’s Complicated.” 


The band’s performances, combined with Olivia’s astounding live vocals, elevated the songs to a new level of passion and power that hadn’t been touched in the studio versions of the songs. I heard instruments come in at new places, and Olivia’s vocals took on a new energy. The raw emotion of each lyric spilled out into the crowd. 


My favorite performance from this concert was jealousy, jealousy.”


All the new elements came together perfectly and there’s no way I will ever hear it the same way. 


This energy appeared so easy to embody because the tour’s structure was centered on Olivia and her band. There weren’t many extra props, she only had a few costume changes, and the “showiest” aspect onstage was flashing lights with a smoke machine.


Olivia could have played stadiums during her “Sour” tour, but the choice to cater to smaller venues made  each show more intimate, and made the audience feel closer to the music. 


It was so easy to focus on her, on the songs, the band and on the music. The messages were striking. 



Olivia Rodrigo onstage during her Sour Tour, 2022.


The “GUTS” world tour took a different approach. 


By now, Olivia had released another album, written a song for the newest “Hunger Games” movie and won various awards for her work. 


“GUTS” showcased a more 2000s punk rock vibe, which could clearly be seen through the outfits worn by fans at the show. Bright pastel colors and abstract patterns were traded for leather mini skirts and defined eye makeup. While “Sour” merchandise was adorned with butterflies and graffiti hearts, “GUTS” merchandise featured Olivia “spilling her guts” (aka vomiting multicolored stars). 


The stage grew from the previous show, now branching out to either side of the arena floor. Parts of the floor were transparent, and the beginning of the show was marked by the burning of holographic purple candles that spelled out “GUTS.” 


This tour had a similar opening of guitar riffs, but with brighter flashing lights as Olivia appeared from below the stage to sing bad idea, right?” 


She sprinkled in cheeky monologues and conversations with the crowd as she bounced between performing the new album and old “Sour” hits. Her stage presence had grown tenfold as any remaining nerves from the previous tour diminished. I could easily feel her comfort onstage as she danced and riffed with the crowd. Her dialogue between songs also seemed less filtered, and she appealed more to the 20-something audience than the 16-year-old crowd of “Sour.” 


“GUTS” felt like more of a performance. I knew it wouldn’t be as raw as the “Sour” tour because of her recent success, but I was not anticipating the larger-than-life performance Rodrigo gave!


Olivia had a screen behind her layered with graphics that referenced the aesthetics of the album. For example, during ballad of a homeschooled girl,” Olivia was seen within the frame of an old-school yearbook, with doodles surrounding each image. When she sat at the piano to sing teenage dream,” home videos of her childhood played on the screen behind her. 


More attention was paid to set design and additional display elements. Olivia had a group of backup dancers that weaved on and off stage for about half of the songs and occasionally joined in with them for choreographed dance breaks. She would lean down and sing to a hidden camera underneath the transparent parts of the stage, which was then projected onto the screen behind her, and once again, her costumes changed throughout the show.



Rodrigo and backup dancers during a performance of “pretty isn’t pretty,”

at the GUTS tour, 2024.


Most notably, clouds, stars and a moon lowered from the ceiling in the middle of the show. Olivia then climbed onto the moon to sing logical and enough for you, swinging above the stage and the crowd underneath. Then, the  moon paused right in front of my section. She made a point to wave to every part of the audience, and I once again felt connected, even all the way up in section 211. This was probably my favorite part of the set. I could tell the extravagant presence she was going for, and it was oddly cohesive.



Rodrigo singing “logical” from the sky, GUTS World Tour, 2024.


Throughout the “GUTS” tour, I loved how Olivia seemed to interact more individually with each member of her band. She would sing to them and even sat at one end of the stage with her lead guitarist to perform acoustic versions of “happier” and favorite crime.” It felt like she took the same effort to engage with her fellow performers as she did to engage with the audience, and that made everything onstage feel a bit more real. 


To end this show, she also made a point to greet everyone at the barricade of the general admission pit, something she hadn’t done before. She accepted gifts from fans and even snapped photos with them from digital cameras. I appreciated that Rodrigo once again connected with her fans despite the lavish show.


While the band on the “GUTS” tour was excellent and brought the newest songs come to life, I felt that these songs stuck closer to their studio recording equivalents. The live variety came from Olivia’s vocal runs and delivery of lyrics, compared to the band’s freer expressions on the “Sour” tour. 


I was honestly missing the band’s impromptu rock additions that “Sour” had. While the songs were still amazing, some of them didn’t have the same angst and energy behind them that I loved on the first tour. This contrast was incredibly interesting, considering “GUTS” had more of a “punk rock” feel. This could be a testament to Olivia’s growth as an artist and a person, which I completely understand. 


These tours are so different from one another. It shows growth and maturity and the way that fame and success changes your exposure. I secured my “Sour” ticket for $85, while my “GUTS” ticket was closer to $150. I’m a member of the small and insanely lucky population who got to attend both, and I genuinely cannot complain too much. However, it is incredibly interesting to see how an artist and their tours evolve over time. 





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