A year ago, this review would have been about “seeing what the big deal is” regarding Lorde, the Kiwi, come-from-out-of-nowhere sensation. Since then, she’s shaken off the “newcomer” stigma by releasing the well-received Pure Heroine, playing memorable sets at festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella, being included in Forbes’ “30 under 30” and by being named as one of the world’s most influential teens by Time Magazine. Oh right, and she turned seventeen.
Basically, the big deal is that Lorde is a big deal. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that despite plummeting temperatures, thousands of people had no problem packing into Echo Beach for one last time in 2014.
Before Lorde’s arrival came Montreal’s Majical Cloudz. While the name is obnoxious, the band had an interesting sound that perfectly suited the crowd: think James Blake but less weird OR think Coldplay but more interesting. It’s atmospheric, dramatic, introspective music that also happens to be accessible – key to getting through to the very young audience. And it felt like they did hit home, as the well-placed beats within tracks from their 2013 album, Impersonator, which was a longlisted nominee for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize, and earnest stage banter between singer Devon Welsh made his love for being back in Canada well-known.
And after a short wait, Lord’s robotic intro music kicked in, bringing the singer and her band out to terrifying screams usually reserved for a Timberlake or Miley. The crowd shrieked as she paced across the stage, stopping to do her delightfully weird stomp-flail-stomp dance. Lorde’s stage presence is based on as much on her weirdness as it is on her simply not giving a shit, which is to say that she’s constantly connected to the music she’s performing. As many renditions of “Tennis Court” she’s done over the last year, it feels as though the lyrics still resonate with her. And that’s the level of performance Lorde provides; dead-on vocals; attention to as much of the audience as possible; charisma; passion. It’s as though she’s been doing this for longer than she’s been alive.
Lorde’s set was incredibly short – an hour in total. Of course, her discography to date clocks in at 53 minutes. To beef that hour out, Lorde offered up a cover of Bon Iver’s “Heavenly Father” (no response from the audience) while her band played a short snippet of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” (HUGE response) along with “Bravado”. She dropped her second single “Tennis Court” early on, while peppering in “No Better” and “Glory and Gore” as well.
Just before “Ribs” – a non-single favourite – Lorde took a few minutes to converse with the crowd, and at this point in the show, she gave a heartfelt speech about a film she’d made, which put her favourite hometown spots on display. They were places that she went to when she needed inspiration or just wanted to be alone. While the speech may or may not have been done for every other city on her tour, this was the point where Lorde’s teen idol, international superstar persona faded away, and left us only with an awkward, nervous teenager, and at no point could you claim that Lorde phoned in her performance.
As any consummate performer knows though, the clichés ring true: save the best for last, don’t give them too much, too early and always leave them wanting more. So it was natural for “Team” and colossal hit “Royals” to be among Lorde’s last songs. Dressed in a blood-red gown/shawl under smoke and a single spotlight, Lorde tried to keep her vocals as loud as the audience’s – a problem every performer should experience in life.
The experience of seeing Lorde live is not about catching the sensation before she hits the big time, but rather seeing one of the music industry’s true feel-good success stories. It’s no longer about proving she’s not a one-hit wonder, but proving that she’s still one of the most authentic performers in pop music.