There’s no more fitting a time and place to see Lana Del Rey than pre-Halloween at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where she played two sold-out shows on Oct. 17 and 18. Picking such an iconic, slightly morbid venue, one that she told the crowd she often “comes to for solace,” is the very pinnacle of the lush fantasy world she has been crafting on record for years.
At the second show, the blue-lit stage nestled in Los Angeles’ century-old graveyard was draped in palm trees and candelabras, while old black-and-white footage of Hollywood Forever flickered on a backdrop screen amid clips from Del Rey’s vivid nu-vintage videos. Equal parts dark and glamorous, her voice — remarkedly improved from the unsteady husk she adopted to tour her 2012 debut, Born to Die — billowed richly through the 13-song set while she wandered around the stage, waving at fans like a newly minted 1940s starlet basking in Hollywood’s adoration. And she had obviously planned a few distinctly thespian gestures: On “Born to Die” she dramatically put two fingers to her temple like a gun with every “You like your girls insane.” Twice, she bummed an offstage cigarette, taking theatrical center-stage drags. At one point, she embraced her guitarist Blake Lee from behind, like a sensual coat, repeating a move from the night prior. Similar to a Disneyland ride, the show seemed engineered to prove that fabricated beauty and opulent drama can still top authenticity — something that Del Rey’s critics have often said is her raison d’etre.
Fans played along with relish. Some even showed up in head-to-toe Del Rey costumes: A sea of flower crowns shrieked as she sang spot-on lyrics (“Red racing cars, Sunset and Vine/The kids were young and pretty”). And they lost their minds, red-carpet style, when she stepped down to the crowd (at least three times) to accept gifts and take group selfies — perhaps her most ostentatious stunt of all, giving fans exactly what they, and maybe she, really wanted. The magic of Hollywood, after all, is useless without its believers.