‘Pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane’ sang Lorde on ‘Tennis Court’, the opening track of her debut album. Four years later, and she stands beaming out across a packed audience as thousands of iPhones capture every second of what she is calling the last night of her world tour. In truth this is only the half way mark of a busy schedule that will resume in three month’s time in North America, with dates already extending into Europe in mid next year. She struts across the stage, her every movement resulting in a fresh round of applause and declarations of love from the adoring throng.
Melodrama, her second album and the reason for this tour, is essentially the story of her own transition from a slightly awkward teenager with worries about the world and her place in it to a bona fide popstar, whilst investigating sex, partying and matters of the heart. The live show, including the manner in which the people onstage are presented and Lorde’s interaction with the audience, are representative of that narrative.
When she speaks it is with the kind of mish-mashed accent of someone who has spent a lot of the last four years in transit, and though her banter relies heavily on self-fulfilling earnestness, each pose is greeted with a fresh wave of a screams.
Musically the show is heavily aided by the use of backing tracks, including layered vocals, which at times make it difficult to ascertain where the live instruments begin and the pre-recorded begins. The stage setting is purposefully minimal, with just a backdrop of lights that is changed at different points of the set, with the band – which includes live drums, keys/guitar and synth/drum pads – all donned in black. A troupe of contemporary dancers moves on and offstage throughout the night for various choreographed sections that compliment the music and Lorde’s own idiosyncratic moves in a way that is visually striking without being distracting.
It’s interesting to note how much more dance influenced the songs from Pure Heroine are when placed alongside the newer material. ‘Buzzcut Season’ and ‘Ribs’ represent a joyful change of pace in the set list, though the heavy production also means her vocal is a bit hard to pinpoint at times. However, the live drum kit helps to add an element of excitement to the overall dynamic, most notably during the final build up of ‘Sober’, which is also a platform to marvel at Lorde’s wonderfully strong voice.
As with every stop on this tour the audience are treated to a one-off cover song, which tonight is a stripped down voice and guitar take on Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’, which comes across as slightly under rehearsed.
The set is divided into different sections, with pre-recorded spoken word poetry being played during each, as the backdrop is changed and Lorde undergoes a costume change. The final section inevitably holds the show’s big hits, with one of the largest reactions going to the track that started it all, 2012’s ‘Royals’, followed by her more recent hit, ‘Green Light’. As the band hit the first chorus confetti canons shoot paper stars into the air in an explosion of New Years Eve-level euphoria, with the Kiwi star grinning and shaking like it’s her birthday and we’ve all thrown her a surprise party.
Having already proclaimed that to be the final song, it was somewhat surprising to see Lorde re-emerge for a solo encore of ‘Loveless’, which is easily the most forgettable two minutes of Melodrama. It was a slightly quirky end to what seemed to be a well thought out stage show, but perhaps that is part of Lorde’s charm – she remains a somewhat awkward, endearing and relatable 21 year old who is also now a major pop star. That dichotomy was what tonight’s show was all about – ‘the glamour, the trauma and the fuckin’ melodrama’.
Originally published in Beat Magazine.