What does melodrama mean to you? To Lorde it seems to represent the bombardment of the media, the overtness of the art and entertainment worlds and above it all the human struggle with love. During one of her speeches, she delves further into her version of melodrama, her borderline obsession with love, finding it, losing it and the desperation to keep it, both towards others and within herself. It’s this struggle that provided the life blood for her album, and forms the backbone for the tour. But the Lorde that greeted us on stage wasn’t defeated, she’s a survivor of this particular fight and her love for her music and fans radiated from her from the moment she entered the stage.
When the first pulsing synths of opener ‘Magnets’, glided over the crowd, it was clear despite the title, this was not to be a melodramatic pop spectacle. Lorde has crafted her own form of pop, the minimalist, electro-heavy sounds really allow for her distinct vocals to stand out, to grasp every nuance of emotion that is so key when listening to her records. Yet, in spite of the preciseness of her music, accentuated further by exact lighting, Ella Yelich-O’Connor was desperate for the crowd to let go, to introduce some chaos to her music and although the music offers little chaos, through sheer force of will, Lorde really pushed the crowd to new heights during renditions of songs such as, ‘The louvre’ or ‘Ribs’.
Although, this wasn’t a melodramatic spectacle, it doesn’t mean there weren’t moments that didn’t stand out. Five songs into the set, Lorde brought out a xylophone, the kind you would find in a primary school and began to hit a few unrecognisable notes. As the confusion in the crowd rose and the murmurs started, the backing track to ‘Buzzcut Season’ creeped in and suddenly the murmurs turned to cheers as she went through a pitch perfect rendition of the fan favourite track.
Intermittently backed by up to six dancers performing interpretive pieces to her songs, it’s clear that this is Lorde’s vision on stage. They aren’t trying to make the New Zealand singer more impressive, they are there show another element to her work and she is constantly trying to find different ways through art or technology to showcase her music, to push beyond what’s on the record. It’s this level of confidence in her vision that shows her progression as an artist. The timid 16-year-old that performed in London for the first time would almost be unrecognisable to the self-assured 20-year-old that commands the stage now. It’s clear to see she revels in it too as at the half-way mark she exclaims, “why did I wait so long to come back?”
During her longest speech of the night, where we find out it’s been four years since her debut album (I’m sure the millennials felt a lot older all of a sudden), she discusses the creation of ‘Liability’ in the studio and how crazy it was to think a crowd of 10,000 people would one day be singing it back to her‘Liability’ the biggest sing-a-long moment of the night at that stage through to crowd pleaser ‘Royals’ the crowd and Ella were pushed deeper into their own worlds… their own melodramatic worlds.
And she certainly saves the best for last, as the final trio of songs: ‘Perfect Places’, ‘Team’, and ‘Green Light’ are almost otherworldly in their states of euphoria. Every bombast chorus of these final songs gives you that kind of life-affirming high, the ‘music is my drug’ kind of high and by the final confetti covered chorus of ‘Green Light’, the crowd were in an all-encompassing state of ecstasy.
There was a strange choice right at the end as she came back for a brief encore of sombre track ‘Loveless’, which felt a little unnecessary, but what Lorde achieved throughout the rest of the night easily outshone this one fault. It was a memorable performance from a generation defining artist and in the words of Phil Collins song she performed earlier there was definitely something “in the air tonight, oh lord”.