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There isn’t a drop of alcohol at Festival Hall for tonight’s Lorde show, thanks to the horde of underagers in attendance. It’s a blessing in disguise: without it, punters can bathe in the proceedings with undivided attention.
As they should. Lorde may be a superstar but this is no run-of-the-mill pop extravaganza. The show, almost impossibly, feels like a hip hop gig. Lorde’s tiny figure is alone when she takes the stage, flanked only by powerful white lights. The bass is at full force as she kicks off with Glory And Gore, and doesn’t recede for the remainder of the gig.
Clad in all black, save for a splash of white across her top, the young Kiwi blends in to the dark backdrop at first. It’s a strangely subtle, almost lacklustre, start to the set but it works in the context of the show’s meticulous narrative.
The curtains almost disappear during Biting Down to reveal her two-piece band, a broken landscape picture frame split in three which flickers to life in neon lights, and Lorde is projected live into the frame at various points throughout the evening.
The singer’s trademark twitching and flailing might look awkward on screen, but live it synchronises perfectly to the subtleties in her music, as if her rap-like lyrical flow is transposed into bodily pulses. The pneumatic elements in Buzzcut Season see her fingers flick up from the mic stand as if she’s being electrocuted. It’s Lorde’s party and she’ll be a weirdo if she wants to.
“You look really great, Melbourne,” she says. “People say that to crowds, but you do. I can see you.” She launches into Swingin Party, a Replacements cover, and boy does she own it. Sorry, Mr Westerberg.
Things hit a three-song dull patch mid set, despite 400 Lux‘s rally-call sirens. Thankfully it’s shaken off with another cover, Son Lux’s Easy. Hypnotic, repetitive lyrics, Lorde’s modulated voice and the Kelis-like brass stabs add flair before it breaks down into a cacophonous instrumental mid-section.
Before a reworked Eurobeat Ribs, Lorde has a heart-to-heart: about her cancellation of her Australian dates in April this year, how it broke her heart, that Melbourne is one of the few cities in the world that she wants to give 100% everything, that she appreciates the T-shirts that her audience have self-printed, and how we are her friends and just want to get sweaty and dance, and how Ribs is about how adult feelings are like a coat you want to take off sometimes and just run away from growing old. It’s the 18-year-old version of a Kanye rant.
The instantly familiar refrain of “Baby, I rule” echoes again and again through the rafters of Festival Hall as the intro to Lorde’s biggest hit cracks wide open. Tonight Royals is hollowed out with a ringing bass, and when the chorus finally drops the chandelier above the stage lights up like a fireworks display.
Royals might have received the biggest reception of the night, but Team somehow manages to outshine it. Lorde thrashes to her own music, like she’s dancing in her own bedroom, all while the audience throw their hands up in adulation. The strobes pulse, and Lorde exits and re-emerges draped in regal wear before the confetti cannons punctuate a euphoric climax.
Show closer A World Alone brings the show full circle. It’s another slow number, but it perfectly encapsulates the evening. It’s an authentic ode to keeping it real while maintaining your own individuality, and the crowd eats it up.
Really, if you squint hard enough, Lorde is powerful and positive propaganda aimed squarely at people her age. This Melbourne show, despite falling flat in places, is overwhelmingly uplifting. Amid the high-minded criticism and the millions of eyes scrutinising her every move, that’s something detractors will never take away from her or her fans.
Lorde captivates an all-ages audience at Festival Hall, Melbourne / Photo: Brett Schewitz