Lorde’s shows at London’s iconic Shepherds Bush Empire and the O2 Academy Brixton were bound to sell out, and rightly so. This seventeen year old from New Zealand has not only made waves in the current musical climate, she has started an earthquake that isn’t looking to calm anytime soon.
First on the bill was Lo-fang; Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Matthew Hemerlein. The classically trained musician showed incredible talent and set just the right mood for fans of Lorde. His dark, experimental breed of music transcends genres and shows a tailored craftsmanship across instruments. He was joined by two others on stage, but on his debut album Blue Film, Hemerlein plays every instrument. In the live setting he is restricted to vocals, guitar, violin and an expertly used loop pedal. Not only was his music beautiful, he had the tousled good looks to to go with it.
Lorde opened with ‘Glory and Gore’ and with just a spotlight on her against a black backdrop it made for a mysteriously dark affair, setting the precedent for the rest of the night. Prior to the show I had concerns about her vocal ability. It sounds impeccable on record but I had my doubts as to whether this could be executed. However, as she likes to do regularly, Lorde proved me, and every other critic of hers wrong with her stunning performance.
Jerking around the stage in a black suit, trademark noir lip and swinging her mane back and forth, Lorde showed the doting crowd that she has her own unique style of performance. Animated, beautiful and with all the dark gothic elements that move her away from the tailor-made female solo artist mould meant Lorde’s performance was like none I had seen before. The black curtain dropped after her opening track to reveal her band, one on drums and one on synths, along with three gold picture frames and a glistening chandelier against a red velvet curtain, a symbol of ‘that kind of Lux [that]aint for us’ that she outlines on the commercial boomer ‘Royals’.
What made her show at Brixton more than simply a retelling of her debut album Pure Heroine was her authenticity. With this being her third show in the UK, ever, the novelty of playing at some of London’s most iconic venues was clear in her beaming smile between tracks. ‘Brixton Academy!’ she exclaimed, incredulously detailing every syllable. A mere four months ago she performed at Madame Jojo’s to a crowd of 200 people: ‘most of the people were there because their bosses had told them to be’, the wiser than most seventeen year old told the audience of fans at Brixton. This is an example of a stratospheric rise to fame, and no-one is more deserving than Lorde. She humbly thanked the audience throughout and told of the fans-turned-friends she has made throughout her journey, it is heartwarming, but also juxtaposed with her cold and often cynical lyrics about teenage life.
Unfortunately there is no new material, but for those pining for more than the Pure Heroine tracks, Lorde performed a mesmerising rendition of her recently released collaboration with Son Lux. ‘Easy’ is the track and it is a sonically daring, strange and powerful affair. Lorde’s vocals and the brassy and menacing instrumentation make it a high point of the set. Jerking in the strobe lighting Lorde danced like a possessed creature, leaving the audience stunned in her presence during this one. Also on the set was a cover of a song that is ‘not [her]own, but she loves it’, ‘Swingin’ Party’ by The Replacements. Old tracks such as ‘Biting Down’ and ‘Bravado’ also make the cut, giving those longer term fans a moral high ground when singing along to every word, oozing with a smugness that says ‘we’ve been here from the start’.
I left the venue feeling just as impressed as the first time I listened to Pure Heroine. The tracks were elevated in the live setting and Lorde’s vocals had more power than I have previously gave her credit for. Lorde is a capsule of excitement in the preliminary stages, aside from the commercial success of her debut, I believe she has the ability to stun even more people in the future. Her über coolness ended the set with the final line of ‘A World Alone’: ‘Let ’em talk’ she stated, dropping the mic and exiting the stage.