Last night’s sold out show at The Powerstation showcased a woman aware of pop’s past, who can adeptly refashion it for the present so that she might secure her place in its future.
As I said in my review of Lorde’s second album Melodrama released earlier this year “If [she] truly is the future of pop music, her contemporaries best be taking note.”
And it was glorious.
In the four or so years between her debut Pure Heroine and now Ella Yelich O’Connor from Takapuna has reached levels of celebrity that has never been seen in New Zealand before. She’s played Coachella, been the subject of a South Park episode, won umpteen awards and curated good soundtracks to blockbuster films.
A star of her power could have easily sold out a couple of shows at Spark Arena. But by opting to play at The Powerstation-a venue that usually hosts critically acclaimed albeit more underground acts, she was ultimately able to give fans all the trappings of a stadium performance with considerably more intimacy.
I was disappointed with opening act David Dallas. While it’s great that Lorde has different supporting acts for each of her sold out shows, I feel like we were short changed last night. David Dallas specialises in bland, middle of the road hip-hop. Admittedly he got the crowd going, but as he yelled at people to “put their hands in the air for muthafuckin’ Lorde” over an embarrassingly facile club beat I couldn’t help but feel jealous of those who had seen French for Rabbits, Mermaidens, TAPZ and Yumi Zouma in the nights previous.
For a pop star who has made a career out of elegantly contorted pop music, it was a bizarrely basic choice in an otherwise great line up of supporting acts. There are so many other artists she could’ve selected for last night’s show- October or Theia would have fitted in with her weird-pop style nicely, while SWIDT has the production and the chops for a hell of a live hip-hop show.
My gripes melted away as Lorde took to the stage launching into Homemade Dynamite and Magnets back to back, her wild curls falling about her face which was lit up by a perpetual beam that barely faltered throughout her hour and a half set.
She seemed ecstatic to be home. “Holy shit we’re at the fucking Powerstation right now!” she exclaimed. “We are in the place we are from, this is my ground. This is a very special place for me, weird shit might happen. I promise I will give you everything if you give me everything” she intoned after the above songs.
As a performer, Lorde joins a long line of boldly individualistic women who break down and reconstruct the tradition notion of pop music to create something that is familiar yet fresh. From playing Running Up That Hill prior to taking the stage to her angular dance moves and ethereal mutton-sleeved costumes, Kate Bush seems to be a clear influence on Lorde and it was wonderful to see.
In contrast to Pure Heroine, which eschewed the pop world, Melodrama was created in its epicentre. It’s a slick album with some songs that sound lacklustre on record, but are completely rejuvenated in a live setting. As previously mentioned, the typical tropes of a stadium show were still at The Powerstation- back up dancers, three costume changes and a video montage not dissimilar to Beyonce’s Lemonade- but Lorde managed to give it her own twist. By virtue of her voice being deeper and huskier live and the use of synths rather than pianos, the songs seemed grimier, grittier even. Coupled with the word MELODRAMA flashing aggressively behind her and a sheer green jumpsuit that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Gary Numan or David Bowie, it felt like we were in the good part of 1983.
There was a dizzying array of hits. Perfect Places sealed itself as a perfect pop song, Ribs (a personal favourite) was an exercise in joyous abandon, Team was performed with a snarl and a swagger that was immensely enjoyable and Buzzcut Season saw Lorde show off her xylophone playing abilities. Personally I found her spiel before Liability trite and hacky, but it didn’t detract from her tumultuously fragile performance. Lorde may be a pop wunderkid with talent to burn, but she hurts like the rest of us.
Interestingly, it was her performance of Royals that left the biggest impression on me. It’s not my favourite song of hers by a long shot and I don’t even listen to top 40 radio enough for it to be overplayed. But after the crowd sang along to every word, there was a moment where the last note faded and The Powerstation hung in silence before erupting into applause. Lorde’s face split into the biggest smile and there was a symbiotic feeling of coming home and pride on both sides.
Green Light allowed for a confetti-filled finish before her encore, the arresting
Hard Feelings/Loveless Generation. With her mixture of spoken word/breathlessly acapella introduction and the wryly catchy chorus, it captured the entire mood of the evening.
Here is an artist caught between two worlds: one driven by aesthetics, newness, individuality and expression. The other by rules, hegemony, specific song structures and topics. From Billie Eilish to Taylor Swift, Lorde is one of those rare people who will leave her mark on both.
If you managed to snap up a ticket to tonight’s show, you’re in for a treat.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:
Lorde set list:
- Homemade Dynamite
- Tennis Court
- Hard Feelings
- Buzzcut Season
- The Louvre
- Sober ll (Melodrama)
- Somebody Else
- Perfect Places
- Green Light
- Writer In The Dark