Lorde Hides and Shines at Sold-Out Roseland Ballroom in NYC: Concert Review
New York City
(Monday, March 10)
Less than a month before the historic New York City venue shutters, the "Royals" singer takes over for three back-to-back shows.
Lorde, the chart-topping old soul of global pop, has a particularly young fan base. After waiting in a line that completely circled the 52nd-and-Broadway block for hours, the sold-out crowd mostly made up of teenagers – and their parents – rushed into New York City's Roseland Ballroom on Monday for the first of three back-to-back shows. A noticeable majority of girls wore a dark shade of purple lipstick and, if they could, opted to let their manes lay voluminous and untamed.
Though the New Zealand singer tweeted earlier that she was losing her voice – and later reminded the audience that "I'm sick tonight, it's not pretty but we'll be alright, don't come too close," while sipping from a water bottle and a mug – she effortlessly opened her 75-minute set with the low-pitched but powerful verses of "Glory and Gore" under a single harsh spotlight, in front of a black sheet and under an unlit chandelier. Her oversized black pantsuit was cleverly (un)fitted over a white tank as if she were a child drowning in a look she'd eventually grow into – but won't for a while, not as long she held fast to the nostalgic feelings of her Neverland-like lyrics.
The black curtain dropped to reveal a minimal set with a DJ and a drummer, and lighting effects that became thematically predictable for each song – green shades for "Tennis Court," white lights for "White Teeth Teens," blue hues for the poolside setting of "Buzzcut Season," mirrored projections for "Swingin' Party" (in which "we hang side by side"), and a reel of a neighborhood for the car ride outlined in "400 Lux." However, they were also designed to hide the headliner rather than to spotlight her, pointed at either her two band members, or aimed at her but from upstage so she appeared merely as a singing silhouette, or launched into a strobe segment so the audience couldn't focus much on her at all anyway. And when she did catch the light or greet the audience with a brief "What up?" or a "You're gonna be back here for Lady Gaga, right?", she was usually facing the wings or the back of the stage, or breaking into her now-signature dance moves of hunching over and jolting on beat, pivoting her leg while singing into the floor with her eyes closed. Many times, she simply held the microphone up through her hair, and it felt as if the audience would never get a true glimpse of the singer at all.
But then, as the first note of "Ribs" repeatedly pulsed, Lorde paced the dark stage without her jacket and shared the story behind the song, written in February 2013: while her parents were out of town, she and her sister threw a "f---ing huge party, everyone crashed at my house and there were mattresses everywhere," and she ended up in a bed with her best friend.
"He didn't know what my problem was, but there's something scary about doing something, about falling into the behaviors of adults, because like, well, how do you come back from that? Once you, I don't know, once you do something, once you become an adult, can you step back into, like, what's familiar and that you've known your whole life? Basically, I'm terrified of growing up," she revealed to a roaring applause. "I've been for a really, really long time, and it's something that still wakes me up at night and still makes me quite scared. So I did what I do with my feelings, and I wrote a song about it." Lorde then performed the audience favorite – faced forward toward the audience, in the middle of the light.
Immediately after the vulnerable moment, Lorde put her jacket back on for "Royals" (the rhythmic version she touted at the Grammys, lit with lush gold tones by the chandelier overhead and crown icons onscreen), and the Pure Heroine singer left the stage briefly during "Team" to change into a metallic jumpsuit with a floor-length cape that turned her jagged dancing into fluid movements during her confetti-filled closer, "A World Alone." For those who hadn't seen her perform before -- she made her New York stage debut at Le Poisson Rouge or Webster Hall only less than a year ago -- the crowded show was an intimate introduction and joyful celebration of the textured alto singer and her troubled lyrics, even if she never actually looked anyone in the eye.
Glory and Gore
A World Alone
Sundance: On the Scene