This Sunday at the Chicago Theatre, Tink began her sold-out show by dimming the lights, hushing the murmur of a crowd of thousands. Her voice filled the space as she thanked an ex-lover for his deceit and betrayal: “Thanks for showing me I could survive, I could thrive without you,” she sang. “Thanks for nothing.” A red hue illuminated the stage, and from a couple rows behind me, I heard a young lady exclaim, “I’m finna cry.”
Four dancers in red leotards strutted to their spots and struck poses. Between them, Tink emerged wearing a dazzling white bodysuit with matching chaps and the fluffiest white boots, taking her rightful place in the spotlight. This was the final stop of her 15-city Thanks 4 Everything Tour, and she’d finally come home to thank the fans who’ve held her down since the beginning.
In February, Tink dropped Thanks 4 Nothing, a 14-track album that zeroes in on the lessons she’s learned navigating the complexities of love. As she takes time to reflect, she recognizes that her past heartbreaks have all helped make her the resilient, self-reliant, and self-assured woman she is today. She’s OK being without a lover, as long as her love for herself remains intact. She opened her set with “Toxic,” crooning while hitting choreography: “Shoulda stayed in my element / Bad bitch no settling.”
Before Tink even hit the stage, the night’s DJ had already turned the stately theater into a nightclub. The aroma of freshly lit Backwoods filled the air as the crowd, primarily young Black women, stood in their seats, dancing and twerking, embracing their friends, and singing their hearts out.
The energy in the room reminded me of my first Tink concert, at the Promontory back in June 2018. I went with my best friend, and like many of the women who filled the Chicago Theatre, we’d been fans since we were teenagers. Even with no huge stage, no fancy lights, no elaborate set, and no dancers, that Promontory show was one of the best concerts I’d ever seen. It was just Tink, a microphone, and her captivating voice. The club was tight and hot, but everyone was too busy having fun and connecting with her to be bothered by that.
As Tink has progressed to selling out 3,600-seat theaters, she’s lost none of her vigor. A larger venue just gives her more space to get creative with her performance. She worked the entire stage, and the dancers and choreography were essential to the fun of the show. As Tink executed each move flawlessly, she looked like she was genuinely having a great time. When she dropped to the floor during one dance break, someone behind me—likely the same girl I’d heard at the beginning of the show—proclaimed, “Tink snappin’!”
After a quick costume change, Tink returned to the stage alone in a burgundy velvet floor-length gown to serenade the crowd with a few of her heartfelt ballads. Just about everyone in the room sang along as she floated through “Cut It Out,” a song from her 2020 album Hopeless Romantic—her first single to go gold.
Then Tink asked the million-dollar question: “Any day-ones in the building? I need to know who’s been down since 2012.” She took a moment to thank her fans for staying loyal throughout her career, which has spanned more than a decade. “Chicago, y’all made me,” she said. And as an expression of her gratitude, she took it all the way back, performing a medley of songs only OG Tink fans know, including “I Like,” “Treat Me Like Somebody,” and even “Bonnie & Clyde” from her very first Winter’s Diary mixtape in 2012.
Before wrapping up the night, she took one more break to change into a black leather two-piece outfit with silver trim and detailing that gleamed each time the lights hit her. Her dancers gave high energy as she performed the up-tempo favorite “Tongue Tied.” She kept the energy up by bringing out her good friend and fellow Chicago native Jeremih to spar on their track “Don’t Tell Nobody.” She closed the show with a passionate performance of “Bottom Bitch,” another gold record.
Throughout the ups and downs of her time in the industry—even the four years she spent in label limbo during her ill-fated deal with Timbaland’s Mosley Music Group—Tink has stayed true to herself. In doing so, she’s also stayed true to the Chicago fans who love her so much. As Tink thanked her audience, her manager Mikkey Halsted and frequent collaborator Hitmaka surprised her onstage. They brought out gifts and a big bunch of pink and red balloons to congratulate her on a successful tour.
“Tink is such an amazing artist,” Halsted said. “She is a once-in-a-lifetime, generational artist. I want to thank y’all for supporting her the way that y’all do. This is the queen of Chicago R&B.” The crowd cheered in unanimous agreement.