As a former theater kid, I have been a huge fan of Reneé Rapp since she grew in popularity for her talents in musical theater. I missed her last tour due to study abroad, so I knew I had to be in the building when she performed near me next. October 16th at Ryman Auditorium ended up being the special day, and it was all I could talk about for days.
My group arrived at the venue during Towa Bird’s set. I regret not making an effort to come earlier as she put on an amazing performance. The British-Filipino artist built a following on social media platforms like TikTok during the COVID-19 pandemic. The last song of her set “Drain Me!” which Towa announced was being released the following Friday, was written in our beloved Music City. I am excited to see more from the talented guitarist and singer in upcoming years.
The friendship and musical partnership between Reneé Rapp and Alexander 23 led to a natural progression to the latter’s status as an opener on the Snow Hard Feeling tour. Alexander 23 served as the producer and main collaborator on Rapp’s Snow Angel. Interestingly, Alexander 23’s music is drastically different from the music he produces. He showed off his vocal talents during “High School” before jumping into TikTok viral “Brainstorm.” My friends and I were surprised and excited when we heard the opening notes of “Steal My Girl” by One Direction at the midpoint of the set. The entire crowd seemed to be singing along to the throwback song.
One of my favorite songs by Alexander 23 is “Dirty AF1s”, a song about missing the little things about a person you love. He changed the lyrics to reference Nashville as he sings “you took your smile back Nashville but you left your toothbrush.” Despite not knowing the words to all his songs, I was enthralled with the “sad boy” energy of Alexander 23’s music. His band also seemed to be enjoying the performance as Petro A.P., the piano and bass player, danced chaotically before running around the stage during “Hate Me If It Helps.” Finally, Alexander 23 brought the vibe back down to end his set with “IDK You Yet,” his most popular song to date. Although the openers had different styles of music, they were successful in getting the audience ready for Reneé.
When the actress and singer finally took the stage with the song “Talk Too Much”, I could tell that I would be talking about the show too much once it ended. In the meantime, I fully enjoyed Rapp’s performance as she was able to make it relatable and unique with her song intros.
“I love southern hospitality, but I also love southern revenge,” Rapp said to the sold out venue before singing “Poison Poison.”
The October 16th show marked Rapp’s second time in Music City, which she hoped to make better than her first trip where she ran into trouble being underaged on Broadway. In light of this, Rapp began to perform “Willow,” which she described as a letter to her younger self. The next few songs of the set continued on a self-reflective journey that many of the audience members can relate to: moving to a different place to start over in “Colorado,” navigating queer relationships in “Pretty Girls,” and the birthday scaries of “23.” Rapp danced around the stage so hard she ripped her pants during Pretty Girls and yelled “I’m ventilated!”
Rapp has natural talent that can be recognized by anyone. She is definitely someone that sounds just like her records – I would even go so far as to say she sounds better live than she does on her tracks. Rapp also seemed to have a personal relationship with her openers, demonstrated by bringing Towa Bird back out to play guitar during “Tummy Hurts.”
Rapp told the Nashville crowd that her next song is one of her favorite songs on her debut album: “I Hate Boston.” Although I do not have the same negative feelings towards the New England city, I was almost in awe of how she was able to perform sitting down – something I know to be very difficult from my classical training. Rapp quickly changed the mood with “So What Now,” an almost ironic song about hearing an ex is back in your city and the thought of running into them. She then performed “Tattoos,” the first song that she ever released back in June of 2022. It is amazing to me to see how much she has grown as an artist in a little over a year, already traveling the country on her second tour.
“Two of my favorite things are songwriters and singer singers,” Rapp said before introducing the next song. She continued to say that as she was in Nashville, she wanted to do something special. Two guests walked on the stage as Rapp introduced them as Mike and Tanya of The War and Treaty. To honor being in Music City and the country music capital of the world, the trio performed a cover of “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton. Their voices blended so well while also giving individuals their time to shine. I agree with Rapp; songwriters and singer singers are some of my favorite things as well. I would fully put her in the latter category.
As sad as I was to have the song end, Rapp continued to put on an amazing show. She asked a fan from the front row to introduce “Too Well,” which was only a snippet but included a guitar solo. The fan engagement was some of the best that I had ever seen at a concert of this scale. Fans had pointed out to the singer that she seems to love writing about moons. “Gemini Moon” is her second song with the celestial object in the name and is arguably more self-critical. As she sang its lyrics, I connected with it in a new way. Ironically, I have a Gemini moon and Rapp does not, but she did an amazing job describing how it feels to be push and pull with a person you care about.
The end of the set was full of songs I did not appreciate enough before hearing Rapp perform live including “The Wedding Song” and “I Wish.” During the latter, she brought Alexander 23 back out to play the guitar as she sang. The entire crowd held up their flashlights as she sang about her childhood self learning her parents were not invincible. The live performance of the two songs cemented their place into my heart. The last song of the set was “In The Kitchen,” where 2,000+ people screamed “strangers to lovers to enemies” before each chorus. Rapp said that out of all her songs “kitchen” is the favorite one she has ever written.
My favorite song Rapp has ever written has to be “Snow Angel.” After a quick hiatus, she reappeared on stage in all white to sing the poignant song about a traumatic experience and how it continues to affect her. Very few artists these days have the vocal prowess and lyrical artistry that Rapp does. Although I am sad that she is not my best kept secret anymore, I am very excited to see her career progress even more with the release of the Mean Girls musical movie next year and more music projects in the future.
Listen to Snow Angel here: