[11 April 2014]
Lorde utterly dominates several Billboard charts nowadays, especially for her Adult Pop song “Team”. But she has earned considerable notoriety for much of the past year for her genre-defying debut single “Royals”, and for her critically acclaimed first proper album, Pure Heroine (2013). Youthful singer-songwriter Ella Yelich-O’Connor is a denizen of New Zealand. Among other accolades, she also won two Grammys—Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance—this year, both of which for her worldwide hit “Royals”. She could have easily won for her fine album, too.
Logically, Lorde is amidst a whirlwind U.S. tour in which she headlines approximately 18 scheduled gigs in three and a half weeks, from Austin to Oakland. She then tackles the festival circuit as her itinerary includes three South American Lollapalooza dates, and two shows at Coachella. In short, Lorde is a busy, talented, and in-demand artist. Her sold-out show at The Midland was simultaneously enchanting and triumphant, and it italicized an emerging artist who can solidly deliver her songs within a live setting, and with few, if any, mistakes.
Apropos of Lorde’s live approach, her set was mostly conservative at heart. She does not present anything risky or experimental. But that’s not necessarily a negative at this early starting-point, as she looks to gain further appeal and, more importantly, loyal and eager fans. Touring is incalculably critical for a musician. Lorde is on her first proper tour, but she seems as well-rehearsed as a veteran artist and she is both charming and cordial. In fact, simply performing Pure Heroine songs in a manner that is faithful to the album was no small feat because of its slew of backing vocals, but Lorde performed most of the album’s songs true to the record, and the acoustics were sound. The result, as it were, was riveting.
Moreover, Lorde was backed on this night by a keyboardist and a drummer, even though one barely recognized their musical presence. Lorde’s singular voice is queen, and she was unquestionably polished as she juggled her live vocals with her prerecorded, backing vocals. Her choreography consisted of a sort of ecstatic fit, as she threw her arms and long tresses about, dancing on cue to hooks in songs.
She opened a bit unremarkably, but once “Tennis Court” kicked in, the buzz from the audience, which included most teenagers, heightened. Several times during the 70-minute show the audience mightily cheered as if they were witnessing the Fab Four on the Ed Sullivan Show. Among the night’s highlights was Lorde discussing the theme of “Ribs”, her narrative beginning with a house party and concluding with a coming of age meditation. Also, prior to “Royals”, Lorde noted how Kansas City was an “inspiration”. Her cover of “Swingin Party” (the Replacements)was most intriguing and substantive while “Team”, of course, was an undeniable winner, even though Lorde’s vocals were unclear toward the end. Her best song was her climactic encore, “A World Alone”, during which she donned a cape with great pride. Her eccentric cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, however, was sorely missed.
On Lorde’s Twitter account recently, she noted that her “pop princess” status is real. Well, her live show is real as well: Lorde’s performance in Kansas City was polished and well-rehearsed, and furthermore it was clear that she is in the process of building a good name for herself.