Lorde Dazzles at New York City's Pier 97, Covers Kanye West & Bon Iver
Lorde is at a crossroads. A lot of kids her age are drifting between high school and college; Ella Yelich-O'Connor likely fancies herself sort of like Kanye West between College Dropout and Late Registration. On tour with Majical Cloudz, she’s in a space where she can still bask in the glory of her acclaimed debut, but with at least one eye wandering towards the all-important sophomore album. On Sept. 14, Lorde covered Mr. West, Bon Iver, and played every Pure Heroine track during the first evening of a three-night stay in New York.
Most of the set was sleek showmanship, as the black, then white, then red-clad Lorde weaved her way through gown changes and Pure Heroine and Love Club cuts with precious little dialogue. Around the three-quarters mark in her just-after-dark set on Manhattan’s Pier 97, the fourth wall came down.
The internet-nurtured, precociously-self-aware teen everyone knew was there peeked out of hiding, ready to transform from Lorde to Ella: “I came to New York for the first time about a year ago and it was the biggest, scariest place I'd ever been.” Her lengthy heart-to-heart was part open letter to New York, part speech from the most drunk and most benevolent person at the party after 2 a.m. She spoke of how New Yorkers were “so alive and so bright in their eyes” and how she felt she’d eventually have to “be practical some time” and “stop running from it.”
Does a teenager staring down a career in the arts with a massive audience have to grow up? Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but as Lorde works through her old material again and again, her evolution becomes essential. Pure Heroine was quite an entrance, but its goth-R&B tricks wear a bit thin when played live in its entirety. Billboard's interview with producer Joel Little proves she’s blossoming as a songwriter, which she must do to maintain the momentum on album number two.
Watch Lorde cover a chorus of Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" prior to performing "Bravado":
In contrast, opener Majical Cloudz’ performance was pure uncharted territory. The militantly minimal, soul-searching-over-synthesizer act was invited by Lorde to open the fall tour, despite having little experience in playing to more than a couple hundred people at once. Vocalist Devon Welsh and instrumentalist Matthew Otto were noticeably wide-eyed, but uncompromising in adapting their music to a space they likely never dreamed of playing. After all, tracks like “Childhood’s End” share immense musical DNA with Lorde and Majical Cloudz’ sincerity outweighed the expected awkwardness. The Montreal-based Welsh openly wondered what body of water he was overlooking and with the sprawling crowd and a sunset over the Hudson River in sight, Otto asked the audience to pose for a cellphone panorama two songs in.
Like Lorde when she first came to the city, Majical Cloudz couldn’t have known what to expect, but seized the dizzying moment for all its creative potential. Enlisting the DIY-minded pair was a bold move on Lorde’s part; to stay winning, Lorde’s new music, too, will have to keep us guessing.
Watch Majical Cloudz open for Lorde:
Majical Cloudz’ set list:
3. Childhood’s End
4. New Song
5. New Song
6. Silver Rings
7. Bugs Don’t Buzz
Watch Lorde cover Bon Iver's "Heavenly Father":
Lorde’s set list:
1. Glory and Gore
2. White Teeth Teens
3. Tennis Court
4. Buzzcut Season
5. No Better
6. 400 Lux
7. Flashing Lights (Kanye West cover)
9. Biting Down
10. Heavenly Father (Bon Iver over)
11. Still Sane
15. A World Alone