For her first major show in over two years, Lorde took full advantage of her prime sub-headline slot on Sunday (April 16) at Coachella, with a full-production set that was a far cry from her stripped down performance last time she played the fest in 2014.
“It is such an honor to be here with you, thank you for having us back three years later,” she said in one of her opening remarks to the crowd. “This is the f—king s–t, oh my god!”
After emerging with a tease of the intro to her newest single, “Green Light,” Lorde began her Coachella set by bouncing along to “Tennis Court” from Pure Heroine. Aside from the massive wrap-around screens of the Coachella stage, Lorde’s setup featured a large translucent box, which served as a set piece paralleling the night-of-a-party concept behind her forthcoming release, Melodrama.
Echoing Sia’s breathtaking set in the same slot last year, every song in the first three-quarters of the 55-minute show was accompanied by dancers in a box replicating a night at a party, starting with awkward conversation, moving to unabashed debauchery, and ending, ultimately, with a pile of bodies. Lorde herself spent most of the set outside of the box, which was hydraulically lifted into the air, singing with a mature confidence she sometimes was searching for on her last go-round.
Highlights included a sing-along to “Royals,” of course, as well as a handful of songs from her new album — including two live debuts. One new song, “Homemade Dynamite,” was a wavy Melodrama track that Lorde introduced by asking fans to give the song “the biggest f–king birthday.” With a pounding backbeat and a stutter-vocal chorus (which includes the fiery line “blowing s–t up with homemade dynamite”), the song received a very warm welcome from the crowd. She also gave the album’s title track its live debut at Coachella.
Every opportunity Lorde used to talk to the crowd felt genuine, with the 20-year-old singer talking so much that she acknowledged she might get cut off for running too long. One of the most memorable moments was before she performed her new ballad “Liability,” when she admitted that she often feels like a burden to the people around her — even breaking into a little snippet of Kanye West’s “Runaway.” “How good is it going to feel to have Coachella sing it back to me?” she asked after her moment of vulnerability. “What a suit of honor.”
One thing that’s clear is that in her absence, Lorde has inspired a slew of sound-alike artists (including Tove Lo, who finished her Coachella set across the field just before Lorde began), essentially creating a genre and potentially becoming a voice for a generation. As she grows into that persona, she may still declare that she’ll never be royal, but she’s well on her way to being a pop queen.
Even so, she’ll likely always remain humble, as she declared before exiting the stage, “This has been one of the greatest honors of my career, spending this hour with you.”
Homemade Dynamite (live debut)
Melodrama (live debut)