Image: Amelia Coleman

“Can a gay girl get an amen?” – Reneé Rapp rocks Birmingham’s O2 Academy

O2 Academy Birmingham, 28th February 2024

Upon arriving at the O2 academy in Birmingham on a rainy Wednesday evening, the first thing that struck me was the queue. Snaking around the bend, hundreds of girls stood huddled in oodies and blankets braving the dreary midlands weather to try and secure the best spot in the venue. Dripping umbrellas were not held above heads but instead were used in their throngs to shelter hand-made cardboard signs that would be held aloft to try and capture the attention of that night’s headline act: Reneé Rapp. In fact, towards the end of the show, Rapp pointed out one in particular: “I would sell my girlfriend for you”, the sign read.

Reneé Rapp is a 24-year-old singer and actress from North Carolina who gained widespread recognition in her role as Regina George in the Broadway musical Mean Girls (2019-2020). Rapp later reprised this role in 2024 movie adaptation of the musical. However, beyond her Broadway exploits, she is also a rising star in the international pop music industry, having released her debut EP Everything to Everyone in 2022, followed by her full-length studio album Snow Angel in 2023.

Following her album release, Snow Hard Feelings marks Rapp’s first UK tour. However, she certainly had no issues selling out venues to an international audience. Birmingham’s O2 Academy was packed to the rafters and alight with excited chatter as everyone waited for Rapp to grace the stage.

 Rapp has become an inspiration for so many

After opening acts Towa Bird and Sekou were done, a short pause followed and a flurry of tech members on stage, the lights were up and Rapp kicked off her set with the first track off of Snow Angel – ‘Talk Too Much’. Amidst flashing red lights, and the screams of her adoring crowd, this upbeat track gave us a taste of the stunning vocals we were in store for throughout the rest of the show. After a quick introduction, Raps then launched into fan-favourite ‘Poison Poison’, giggling as the crowd screamed along to the track’s outro: “F*ck you, you dumb b*tch / F*ck you, f*ck you, f*ck you / Gorg?”.

Despite previously being cut from the tour set list, Rapp then treated Birmingham to a rendition of ‘Willow’, before taking a break to chat to some of her fans. One girl was desperately trying to video call her sister, as others nearby shared they had travelled all the way from Australia to make it to the concert that night. Through these interactions, it was clear to see how and why Rapp had developed such a passionate fanbase. Above being such a young Broadway star and Hollywood actress, Rapp’s brilliance lies in her honesty and relatability.

Nowhere was this more prevalent than in ‘Pretty Girls’ when Rapp grabbed a lesbian pride flag which she held aloft as she delivered the upbeat track alongside the support of her crowd. In an industry that continues to underrepresent the queer community, Rapp has become an inspiration for so many. As a proud LGBTQ+ woman who writes music that is so genuine and easy to connect to, ‘Pretty Girls’ seemed a moment of joyous celebration within Rapp’s Birmingham setlist.

Snow Hard Feelings is sure to be a pivotal moment in Rapp’s career

Rapp went on to perform a sensual rendition of ‘Tummy Hurts’ alongside Towa Bird. This partnership felt magical. Towa was far from overshadowed by Reneé’s magnetic stage presence as the pair later performed a tender cover of The Cranberries’ ‘Linger’, to the delight of the onlooking crowd.

After the duet, Rapp burst into her new track from the Mean Girls movie: ‘Not My Fault’. The absence of Megan Thee Stallion was filled with an eager audience revelling in the opportunity to fill in the rap section of the sparkly pop hit. However, this excitement soon fell away to a set of slow tracks and heartbreak ballads to conclude Reneé’s performance. Whilst these next songs – including the beautiful ‘In The Kitchen’ from Rapp’s first EP – were a brilliant opportunity for the artist to show the strength of her vocals, it felt slightly anti-climactic. All of Rapp’s upbeat sing-a-long tracks had been used up so early into her set, the energy in the room began to dim as the evening drew to a close.

After leaving the stage following ‘In The Kitchen’, Rapp returned one last time for an encore. This performance was the standout moment of the latter part of her show. After an outfit change to an all-white ensemble, Rapp stood in front of a projection of two huge angel wings and delivered a gut-wrenching performance of ‘Snow Angel’. With a breeze rippling through her hair, Rapp wanted to ensure that her audience knew she has the best belt in the business, barely leaving a dry eye in the house.

Whilst her set seemed to have begun and finished all in the blink of an eye, Snow Hard Feelings is sure to be a pivotal moment in Rapp’s career as she transgresses from the Broadway stage to selling out music arenas across the globe. Her setlist truly shone a light on Rapp’s versatility and incredible vocal skills. The atmosphere created by Reneé Rapp in the O2 Academy was one of light, love and community, and I have no doubt she will soon return to the UK to sell out even bigger venues.



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