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It’s safe to say 16-year-old Kiwi singer-songwriter Lorde (aka Ella Yelich-O’Connor) is one of the most talked about artists of 2013, and for all the right reasons. The antidote to the pop poison clogging our airways, her realist approach to songwriting paired with minimalist production, catchy melodies and a knack for lyricism make a refreshing change to the dreadfully dire party anthems from her scandalously-clad counterparts.
From Grimes to Taylor Swift, just about everyone has tweeted their tick of approval, including poster-prodigy and founder of Rookie, Tavi Gevinson, who is actually her senior – to put things really into perspective. And with sold-out shows across both Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, expectations were high to say the least.
Solo Sydney producer, Oliver Tank, warmed the stage with his chilled melodies and electro percussions, aptly closing his set with his rendition of Snoop Dogg and Pharrell’s cheerfully catchy, Beautiful.
Shortly after Tank left the stage, the sold-out crowd, in true Aussie style, began to chant “Lorde! Lorde! Lorde!” as though they were oval-side at a cricket match, and as a round of slow-claps started the artist herself was drawn to the mic. Dressed in a wrist-to-ankle jumpsuit and stomping boots, Lorde took to the stage, flipping her curly mane from her face to reveal only a slice of her porcelain skin and a small smile to the audience.
She kicked off her set with two tracks from her Love Club EP, Bravado and Biting Down. With a bare stage and minimal lighting, her glitchy movements, hair flips and zombie-like shoulder snaps captivated the audience, and her presence was as intriguing as her lyrical poetry. Phones were-a-flurry during popular single Tennis Court, which had gig-goers joining her every word.
Hands were raised high as she pulled out her impressive cover of Kanye West’s Hold My Liquor. With slow-strobe flood lights beaming behind her, Lorde dipped and crouched into the mic, spitting West’s profanities like a rebellious teen while her curly locks enveloped her like a fashionably alternate Cousin It. Her harmonious White Teeth Teens had the awe-struck audience hypnotised, so much so that we must have been stood frozen. As she wrapped up the song, she cheekily demanded, “Can you f’ing dance, please?!”
With over 18 million views on Youtube and having sold over 1 million copies of her Billboard chart-topping single Royals, it was no surprise that the crowd belted out every word even louder than little Lorde herself. Her final “Let me live that fantasy” was met with a roar of cheers to which she modestly thanked the crowd, “You’re making me blush, everyone!”
She paused for a moment before launching into her next song, assuring the crowd that she was kickin’ on till the end and confessing that she had a bout of food poisoning at her Brisbane gig the previous night, forcing her to dash off stage and vomit in a nearby bin halfway through her final song. “But I’m fine now”, she laughed.
Bright beams of light hatched the stage as an eery fog-horn marked the opening to 400 Lux. With a thumping base and lyrics like, “We’re hollow like the bottles we drink/we may be hollow but we’re brave“, the crowd hung on her every word like they were a part of a magical shamanistic ritual.
With the fan blowing her locks from her face – “I sweat like a freak on stage, this is not a wind machine” – she took a few needed sips of water and gave us the low-down. “Here’s the deal – I don’t do encores. I hate them so much.”
And like the queen B she proclaims to be, she demanded an appreciative round of applause, “So pretend I’ve just come back on stage”, before launching into her final track, A World Alone. Her final looping lyrics “People that talk, yeah, people that talk, yeah” swirled the room before aptly finishing with “Let ‘em talk”.
Lorde delivered a stellar, other-worldly performance, hitting every note, never once wavering off key. It’s easy to forget just how young she is, with her husky voice and confident stage presence. Not only do her lyrics encapsulate the tricky equilibrium of teenage years, serious but carefree, her songs potentially possess the power to breathe life into pop once more.
Whether Lorde is the carefully calculated construction of an unknown puppeteer, or it’s simply a stage name to represent Yellich-O’Connor’s alternately cool, talented self, there’s no doubt that she has found the formula for success. Let’s hope she doesn’t burn out too quickly, because she is undoubtedly bound for greatness.
(Photo by Zoltan Blazer)