On the 27th September 2017, exactly four years after her debut album Pure Heroine came into the world, the New Zealand singer/songwriter Lorde has returned to London, to perform at a sold-out Alexandra Palace.
I have been a fan of Lorde’s music ever since I first heard the song ‘Royals’ in 2013. The minimalist instrumentation, the focus on the voice and the poetry-like lyrics felt fresh to my ears. I immediately bought the album and started listening to it obsessively.
Melodrama was no different. As soon as it was out, I was listening to it, and loving every moment of it, even though the style had become somewhat different and the tone of her words had changed. Little Ella was growing up, and she was telling the world exactly how it felt like.
So it was compulsory for me to travel from Cardiff to London just so I could hear this new, transformed style. And I was not disappointed.
After the beginning act by American rising star Khalid, very well received by the audience but too long for those of us who were just craving to listen to Lorde’s voice, the black curtain at the back of the stage fell, revealing the word MELODRAMA in turned off, neon light letters, ready to be lit up. The quick stage change after the young R&B and pop singer brought to us a minimal setting featuring a vintage television and a metal construction that seemed to have no concise shape or form.
All of a sudden, the lights were on, and 10,000 people clapped and cheered, welcoming Lorde wearing an all-black outfit. ‘Magnets’, a collaboration with the English electronic music duo Disclosure, was her first song, a curious choice for the start of her three-act performance.
Previous hits ‘Tennis Court’ and ‘Hard Feelings’ followed suit, and the crowd sang along to the words they had known for years. But then, a moment of surprise: “I’m going to try something”, Lorde said, as she went to the back of the stage and picked up and pale blue, plastic case. It was a xylophone, in which she played an almost unrecognisable tune until the chords for ‘Buzzcut Season’ started creeping in. A wonderful and unexpected beginning to yet another very well known song.
After a rendition of ‘Sober’, it was time for the first intermission. The television started working, and we were bombarded by a series of old film clips mixed up with vintage looking footage of the singer herself, asking existential questions in a dreamy tone.
Lorde reappeared on stage, this time wearing a white, almost childlike dress. This second act of the performance presented us with old songs like ‘Ribs’ and ‘A World Alone’, new ones like ‘The Louvre’ and a cover of Phil Collins ‘In the Air Tonight’. But its high moment, and definitely one of the best moments of the night, was the song ‘Liability’ and the speech that lead to it. Ella – and I have changed here the name on purpose – spoke to us for about ten minutes, discoursing on how Pure Heroine had changed her life and explaining the creative process for Melodrama. It is an album “about a wide-open heart”, she said, an album written from her own experiences. She also mentioned what it was like to be described as “too much”, in a clear reference to the song that was already playing in the background, and possibly to her breakup with photographer James Lowe. It was truly moving, and there were several people in tears, myself included.
The last act of the performance, in full contrast, was a celebration of the present, with songs ‘Supercut’, ‘Royals’, ‘Perfect Places’ and ‘Team’. Lorde was at this point wearing bright red, ready to take on the world. The audience was ecstatic; we could feel the build-up that was leading us to the climax of the evening. ‘Green Light’ was the ending song of choice and a perfect one for that matter. The audience, obliging to Lorde’s earlier request to go “f***ing crazy” with her, absolutely lost it. We were singing to the top of our lungs, dancing and jumping like freedom was our middle name, with green neon lights above us moving almost erratically, when confetti fell upon us, thousands of small white paper stars gluing themselves to our sweaty skins.
This is a concert I will never forget. Lorde’s singing, which four years ago was still shaky and not entirely in tune in live concerts, was absolutely flawless. The work she has obviously put in bore fruit, as the improvement of her live singing skills was indescribable. Her dancing, unique as always, was a perfect human illustration for the feelings she was so intensely putting in every sung word. A group of interpretative dancers was on stage for most of the time, and a string ensemble also made an appearance in some of the songs. Because of this detail, I do wish a small group of brass players had too been present, especially in ‘Sober’, where their small interventions are one of my favourite elements the song.
I was also slightly disappointed that ‘Writer in the Dark’ was not part of Lorde’s set as it is, in my opinion, one of the highest and most poignant moments of Melodrama. The Phil Collins cover felt slightly out of place, and I didn’t understand the choice of ‘Loveless’ for the encore song.
Nevertheless, this was a brilliant performance, delivered most dazzlingly and confidently by who is most definitely one of the brightest stars in today’s music industry.
Ana Beatriz Ferreira