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SZA sets sail across familiar waters with an ever-loyal crew

SZA onstage at TD Garden on Saturday night.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

In these quarrelsome times, it’s nice to know that a solid murder ballad can still bring people together.

Thousands of SZA fans uttered the same damning confession Saturday night at the singer’s TD Garden concert, gleefully reciting the chorus of her single “Kill Bill.” “I just killed my ex / Not the best idea / Killed his girlfriend next / How’d I get here?” they echoed, many folks tossing their hands over their heads and swaying as if it were SZA’s coquettish Doja Cat collab “Kiss Me More” and not a grisly vendetta.

Out of context, it might have been a mildly horrifying scene. But this is a slice of pop-R&B that’s surpassed ubiquity — one of those songs whose enduring popularity ameliorated its criminal message after a billion-plus Spotify streams. Nearly a year after its release, “Kill Bill” remains so in-demand that it’s likely why the singer tacked on another slew of North American dates to her “S.O.S. Tour,” including Saturday’s Boston return after a sold-out TD Garden show in February.

Saturday night’s performance presented a near-carbon copy of the winter setlist, save for a few additions, like an earnest rendition of the self-conscious “Ctrl” cut, “Normal Girl.” Some folks might equate the repetition to consistency. Others might call it disappointing déjà vu. But the fans gathered at the Garden didn’t call the familiar spectacle anything — they were too consumed with reciting lyrics like a creed.


It was as if concertgoers used the seven months since SZA’s last visit to rehearse the set to the point of muscle memory. This wasn’t a standard singalong affair; as SZA sashayed through 30-odd songs, the collective voice of onlookers often cast an impenetrable din over their idol’s sparkling pipes. As the singer snapped her body through rounds of taxing choreography, she flexed a formidable stamina, never allowing the exertion to sap her crystalline vocal prowess — a marvel to witness, if you could hear it.


SZA during her performance at TD Garden.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

But if SZA was irked by the overpowering reception, it never disrupted her gracious demeanor. As she maneuvered through an ensemble of nautical props — a life-size ship, a plank suspended before a video backdrop of the ocean — she leaned into her status as the current voice of a generation. While scenery behind her shifted from serene shipyards to choppy waters, she welcomed the waves of fan vocals undulating toward the stage on fiery smashes like “I Hate U” and “The Weekend.”

When SZA ventured into the arena, there was no need to part the seas; she glided over the masses on a lifeboat rigged to the ceiling. Perched just a few dozen feet above the crowd, she gazed at the tender adoration below her, watching fans’ faces reflect her own vulnerability. In the moment, her aching tune “Nobody Gets Me” blossomed into an unbreakable bond between one artist and her admirers.

“Nobody gets me like you / How am I supposed to let you go?” she mused.

As long as SZA keeps circling back to Boston, that’s one love she’ll never have to surrender.

Victoria Wasylak can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @VickiWasylak.