Friday night at the Xcel Energy Center, Lorde was selling a lot of great merch. A black T-shirt bore her stage name, scrawled in slim-lined cursive; an Italian-style film poster advertised “Perfect Places” on the back. A bright pink tee announced “Writer In The Dark” in an Art Nouveau font. A white long-sleeved shirt, decorated with a red arrow through a heart, described “The Louvre” as “Un film de Ella ‘Lorde’ Yelich-O’Connor.”
I want to draw your attention to that last shirt, which sees Lorde recognizing herself as director — of “The Louvre,” yes, but I’d extend that to her sound, stage show, and entire brand. I imagine I had the exact experience Lorde wanted me to while attending the Melodrama World Tour. She planned the journey from opener to opener; she knew I’d want a surprising encore; she expected me to treasure the intimacy she shared. Call me a Calvinist, because I am here for predestination with the Lorde.
The 21-year-old New Zealander sang for almost two hours on Friday, and her set didn’t drag for a minute. That’s the beauty of Lorde’s repertoire, which spans not just Pure Heroine and recent album Melodrama, but also a collaboration with Disclosure and the Mockingjay: Pt. 1 soundtrack. She split apart her song “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” saving the latter half for the encore, and broke out “Royals,” “Perfect Places,” and “Green Light” to end her main set.
“Yellow Flicker Beat” stood out. Arriving at about the midway point of the set, the Mockingjay song builds from a wavering G-sharp moan into a tantrum, both anguished and calculating (“I’m locking up everyone who ever laid a finger on me”). The huge glass tank that Lorde brought on tour tilted from side to side as if seasick, and the single dancer inside slipped and climbed, looking as desperate and unsteady as the song.
One of the most surprising set list choices was Lorde’s cover of “I Would Die 4 U.” “I’m a big old Prince fan,” she told the audience, recounting the few times she crossed paths with the Minnesota native. He invited her to a 2 a.m. show one time, but she opted to go to bed, which she says she regrets now. At a Golden Globes, she sat at his table, and she felt a tap on her shoulder. “So nice to see you,” she remembers Prince saying. The cover itself was short and slow, a piano-backed snippet that she mostly motioned for the audience to sing.
— Local Current (@LocalCurrent) March 24, 2018
In other cover news, opener Tove Styrke (“too-vuh steer-kuh”) joined Lorde for a cover of Robyn’s “Hang With Me,” which reminded me: It’s encouraging to see next-gen pop stars be so mutually supportive. I’m not talking about Taylor Swift’s “squad,” although Lorde has been counted in their number. I’m thinking of Dua Lipa and her four overqualified background singers; Charli XCX and her feature-stuffed Pop 2; Lorde and Tove Styrke sitting next to each other on a stage, touching foreheads for a moment after duetting Robyn, whom Lorde has called a “big influence on Melodrama.”
— Tove Styrke (@tovestyrke) March 24, 2018
For all these stars’ positivity, I wouldn’t describe any of them as sanitized – for every song Lorde writes about being “off our faces,” Tove Styrke loads an angry or heartbreakingly honest lyric into a cannon and yells, “Fire!” It’s just that they’re generous with intimacy.
Lorde’s show felt both intimate and cavernous, for different reasons. Even from my floor seat, I could barely see her through the sea of heads and hoisted iPhones. I’d seen her face on Instagram and blogs so often I could hardly believe we shared the same room. Yet she took time to let the audience into her world, most notably through an on-screen costume change. After she sang “Ribs,” her (hidden-from-sight) band played an outerlude, and she took off her clothes before fastening a new skirt and straightening her hair. She acknowledged the audience once, flourishing at her sparkly boyshorts. But otherwise, she acted as she might’ve if there was no one else around.
You know that feeling you get when you’ve been emotionally knocked flat, at the end of a climactic symphony or hurts-so-good poem? You can’t move for a moment, or you don’t realize you’ve been holding your breath until you let it out. That’s how I felt watching Lorde. She’s a symbol of my generation, and I finally got to see her after years of hoping for the chance. Like the rest of the crowd, I danced, sang, and soaked it in.
Swedish pop singer Tove Styrke opened the show, performing songs “Borderline” and “Liability” (a Lorde cover), plus “Say My Name” and “Changed My Mind” off her upcoming third album Sway. The set list definitely felt curated to Lorde’s electronic, dancey, but mellow vibe — no “Even If I’m Loud It Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking To You” rock experiments here. If you’re into Zedd and Alessia Cara’s “Stay,” you’d have liked Styrke’s set.
Run the Jewels filled the middle slot, pumping up the energy with bangers and shenanigans. While Styrke was a natural choice for opener, RTJ were a brilliant one. “Imagine you’re at a family wedding, where your drunk cousins hammer bullies for you,” Killer Mike told the crowd. El-P, Run the Jewels’ other half, added, “We’re your drunk cousins!” Performances by Trackstar the DJ on turntables and Beyoncé producer Boots on vocals only added to the set.
Lorde set list:
Magnets (by Disclosure)
Yellow Flicker Beat
I Would Die 4 U (first verse and chorus; Prince cover)
Writer In The Dark
Hang With Me (Robyn cover with Tove Styrke)
Sober II (Melodrama)
Precious Metals (Melodrama deleted scene)