Lorde is pacing in the foggy shadows as an ensemble of dancers take to the stage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on April 4, delicately dancing while she opens her set with Melodrama track “Sober.” Though subtle in nature, the simple act of singing without being seen makes a bold statement: the 21-year-old New Zealand native has become a vital voice of a generation.
Though her breakout hit “Royals,” released in 2013, established Lorde as one to watch, the June 2017 release of Melodrama, her acclaimed sophomore album that earned her a Grammy nod for album of the year — she notes the February Grammy awards ceremony was the last time she was in New York — solidified her as a glowing star.
Melodrama is honest and tender — “I had written this body of work about love and youth, and permanence and impermanence” she later says — and so capably captures how it feels to be hopelessly heartbroken, an emotion that fuels her fiercely fun live show.
“You’ve got something of a reputation,” she tells the screaming crowd with a smile, dressed in a black trench with balloon sleeves — her first of four looks for the evening. “New York crowds can be a little cool, a little chill. But tonight, you’re in my house. And in my house, we dance.”
After powering through “Homemade Dynamite,” Lorde dove into “Tennis Court” and her feature on Disclosure track “Magnets,” during which she fell seamlessly into line with her team of dancers for a bit of loose choreography. But even as loose and fluid as her set seemed, it was evident that every move was carefully crafted to drive home the point that Lorde is both an internationally praised pop star, and a very relatable young woman. She even likens her shows to a conversational dinner party: “What’s up, you dating anyone? You got any crushes?” she asks the crowd over downtempo piano chords.
This balance of average and anomaly was best portrayed during her first outfit change into a glittering cream colored top and long billowing skirt, which she did on stage while standing inside the large lucite box that has become a staple of her Melodrama shows. It may have been nothing more than a time saver (the set was just under two hours, encore included), but it also clearly illustrated how even though Lorde strives to maintain a separation between her public and private life, at the end of the day, she’s still standing in a room with everyone looking in.
But perhaps the one moment where Lorde truly did go off-script was when she invited a special guest on stage, her friend and collaborator (and rumored flame) Jack Antonoff. The singer-musician-producer sauntered on stage, as if by accident, looking casual and, as Lorde gasped at, chewing gum. The two sat cross-legged on top of the clear box and delivered the anticipated cover of choice for her New York show, St. Vincent’s “New York,” which Antonoff also had a hand in producing — the rendition later veered off into a reprise of “Hard Feelings.” In Chicago, Lorde covered Kanye West and elsewhere she’s sang Frank Ocean.
— Lyndsey Havens (@LyndseyAlana) April 5, 2018
After, Jack handed off his guitar and was readying to leave the stage when Lorde requested he stay “and sit for this next one.” Instead, he hopped on keys and played along to Melodrama’s most vulnerable track, “Liability.” But the set’s most intimately beautiful moment had come earlier in the night, during a lengthy and emotionally chilling introduction to “Writer In The Dark” that both explained the song’s inspiration — writing about the people you know and love — and served as a pep talk: “You have to be whatever you were meant to be, there is no other life. You have to be the vivid dreamer, you have to be the overreactor, you have to be the hopeless romantic. You have to be the writer.” Sitting alone supported by nothing but a piano, her vocals glided between her silky falsetto and warm lower register to deliver the track.
Being 21, Lorde comes across wise beyond her years, specifically when speaking about love and more importantly what happens when you lose it. But no lyric better tells her story than “I’m 19 and I’m on fire,” as she sang on second-to-last song “Perfect Places” (she closed the set with “Green Light” and confetti canons), spotlighting just how far she’s come in such a short time, and proving that her fire isn’t burning out anytime soon.