Better than: Most anything you've ever heard from a 16-year-old girl.
Every iPhone in the house was up and Instagramming when Lorde began to sing the first few lyrics of her hit song “Royals.” Her performance of the minimalistic, bass-pounding jam was exceptional; the only thing that topped it was when she blew off an age-old ritual at the end of her set. “I don't do encores, they're lame,” she told the crowd before performing the unreleased song “A World Alone.” “We can pretend I just walked off stage and came back on.”
Lorde, a New Zealand born artist whose real name is Ella Yelich-O'Connor, rose to rapid fame after releasing her debut EP The Love Club via SoundCloud nearly a year ago. A teenager whose songs are about vices of materialism is now joining the ranks of alt-pop royalty, selling out shows and embarking on a headlining North American tour.
Last night was the first of two shows Lorde is playing in Los Angeles this week. The sold out
Fonda was filled with a mix of drunk, selfie-taking twenty-somethings, couples young and old and teenage girls who convinced their parents to come with them to a show on a school night.
Lorde is only 16, but her young age hardly hindered the force of her set. The dark, simplistic lighting paired with the loose, black dress she wore made the intimate show more about the music than the grandeur. Throughout her performance, Lorde connected with the audience through gazes and demure interludes, saying things like, “is everyone alright?” and “I'm very happy to be here.” Sometimes she would come off as cocky, though, announcing, “I've got a great set for you tonight. I hope you like it…you better like it.”
The first three songs of the set sounded contrived. As she walked on stage peering through her mess of curly brown hair, Lorde gave the audience a pouty-lipped smirk and dove into “Bravado.” Maybe it was just the din of cheering and singing from the crowd that was obscuring her voice, but it seemed like the songstress was holding back. Some amiss fluctuations in her vocals made it sound like she was trying to sing through nervousness, which could be the case, as the singer has disclosed that she gets terrible stage fright. The heavy James Blake-esque bass wasn't helping the situation either, sometimes drowning out her voice completely.
Lorde and her band then took a moment to do a quick sound check. Maybe somebody turned up her mic or turned down the bass after her first few songs, but whatever the technical fix was, it worked. The set changed completely when Lorde's voice was finally able to shine through the excess backing tracks and heavy beats, particularly when she performed “Buzzcut Season.” Her confidence was up as she flicked her hands and hair to the comparatively slowed-down, melodic tune.
Lorde kept up with the downtempo jams with a crisp performance of “Swingin' Party.” Every so often an ethereal spotlight from the back of the stage would surround Lorde like a giant God light peering through the clouds on a rainy day.
Before performing another new song called “Ribs,” Lorde announced,”This song means a lot to me, for the record, it's one of my favorites.” During the song's intro she walked erectly around the perimeter of the stage like a fighter in the ring, as though she was prepping for something epic. Throughout the song, Lorde would take a moment to close her eyes and just feel the music. During vocal breaks she would jerk her entire body to the beat in a non-sexual, calculated way. Her abrupt moves almost seemed choreographed, but they were just as organically erratic as if she were just dancing to the song without a care about who was in the room. Maybe she was.
Lorde's set took a surprising turn when she churned out a killer, truncated cover of Kanye West's “Hold My Liquor.” Her rendition of the tune was far from censored, and she didn't hold back in throwing in some aggressive arm movements and sneers that would rattle the likes of Nicki Minaj. The crowd roared when she delivered the line, “I can't handle my liquor, but these bitches can't handle me.” When sung by the young Lorde, the song was transformed from a boastful rap to an ode about all those bitches who talk shit in high school, and it worked.
For the rest of the set Lorde stuck to singing material from her new album, Pure Heroine, that is currently streaming online and is set for release on September 30. She failed to play some of her most well-known, singable jams like “Love Club,” “Million Dollar Bills,” and “Team,” which took away from the show's appeal. Lorde acknowledged this predicament, saying, “I know it's hard being at a show when you only know like, four songs, but thank you.” Overall, it was a solid performance from an above-average teen.
Personal Bias: My alarm in the morning is the song “Tennis Court”
Overheard in the crowd: “Can't wait to see her at Coachella.”