(concerts in the 21st century, amirite?!)
Remember the adage “Dance like nobody's watching?”
On Friday night, before 5,000 or so people, Lorde did precisely that. “Twitchy” is a word I heard describing her show before the performance at the BMO Harris Pavilion. I would say that was spot on, as she danced and swayed and zigged and zagged through 15 solid songs. (Seriously: I cannot get enough of her dancing. She was a cross between Marilyn Manson in “TheBeautiful People” video (around the 2:54 mark specifically) and Beavis and Butt-head, well, anytime they rocked out.)
Of course, her stage moves weren't the only notable thing about the show.
Lorde was backed up by only two musicians; a keyboardist that looked suspiciously like “Weird Al” Yankovic and a drummer that did not. This served her well as the minimalist instrumentation brought the focus to her voice, which sounded fantastic. Furthermore, it was definitely live, unlike a lot of her her pop star peers.
'Peer' is both a good and a bad word to describe Ms. Yelich-O'Connor as related to other pop stars. On the one hand she has the moves and the mannerisms down. She apparently went to the Mick Foley School of Pandering as she mentioned how much she liked Milwaukee over and over and over again. Cheap pops (applause, for the non-wrestling fanatics) abounded. On the other hand her lyrics are, if not totally deep man at the very least are more thoughtful than what passes as pop music these days. When she sang “I'm kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air” I could sympathize. When she sang “Hey, it’s all cool, I still like hotels, but I think that'll change,” as on “Still Sane,” a song about her newfound fame, I realized this is a girl with her head on straight.
Visually, the show was a stunner. Different songs found Lorde bathed in blues and reds and greys with outfits to match. A few numbers near the end featured these weird smoke bubbles, which led to my wife remarking “I could watch this all day!” Finally, after “Team,” cannons shot out confetti featuring a logo with Lorde's likeness on it.
The music itself was mostly spot-on as far as sounding like the record. It was easy to settle into the steady groove of “Tennis Court,” and other songs followed the same suit. She covered a couple of tunes: the banging “Flashing Lights” by Kanye West, and an effervescent take on Bon Iver's “Heavenly Father.” One of the set highlights came near the end, with an extended/remixed version of “Team.” It was already the most energetic cut from the Pure Heroine LP, but live the backing band jammed out amid synthesized guitar squall, which just washed over me to the point where I could lose myself in the beautiful noise.
Strangely, the Grammy-winning “Royals” was the weakest song of the night. It managed to sound more minimalist than it did on record, and just fell flat. Aside from an admittedly sweet but otherwise yammering (as if a teenager can talk any other way) 10-minute long monologue, that was the only misstep of the night.
I'll admit that I nearly left disappointed because Lorde didn't sing “A World Alone,” but she saved the best for last. It put an exclamation point on an excellent 80-minute set. Through all the shrieking teenage girls, the cell phone illumination, the spazzy dancing, and the confessional lyrics – the kind of stuff that might make one (specifically a 32-year-old male) feel like an outsider – the music brought everyone together. It didn't matter whether you came to the music by losing yourself in it via headphones, or by hearing the latest single on the radio. Lorde might have been singing about “dancing in this world alone,” but on this night every person in the place was dancing with 5,000 of their closest friends. It was proof of the power of pop music, and it was joyous.