Can you imagine going to a high school party at Lorde’s house while her parents are out of town? Could you see yourself microwaving her family’s food while in some sort of teenage haze? Now picture the host of the party falling asleep at 4 a.m. and wrestling with becoming an adult for the first time.
This is the scene that 17-year-old pop sensation, Lorde, described to the sold out Fillmore Auditorium audience on Saturday.
“What was conflicting me was once you set foot in that adult world can you still be a kid?” she said of her experience of the party that inspired the song “Ribs.” The response was an eruption of cheers from the audience — an equal mix of teens and adults.
Noting the few thousand that had gathered to see her debut in Colorado, she continued, “You’re here because you’re my age or you’re older and you know what it is like to be my age.”
This might be how Lorde became a breakout hit — how she won Grammys, how she wrote a multi-platinum single and reached an international pop audience within a year.
Her music crosses genres, and even though the lyrics are somewhat juvenile, it transcends generations. Think for a second about the cover of the Replacements that Lorde played on Saturday. How many of the younger people in the crowd would have recognized the song, “Swingin Party?” The older members of the audience must have appreciated Lorde’s moody take on the ‘80s track. Meanwhile, teenagers, who weren’t born for a decade later, will likely Google search the lyrics on Sunday.
What’s most impressive is that Lorde has a fully-realized stage persona, one that was immediately clear when she took the stage at about 9 p.m. She stood under a white light alone and sang “Glory and Gore” before a sheet dropped to reveal her band — two Devo-inspired guys, one on keyboards and the other playing drums and synth pads. From her style, to her modest lighting, to her mannerisms on stage, Lorde felt authentic, rather than a manufactured pop star.
Here’s a quick description of a few of her dance moves: There’s The Hair Flip, The Head Bang, The Palm Out Grasp, The Spell Casting Hand Gesture, The Air Drum and The Sky Reach. Drenched in a seance-aura of smokey purples and blues, she repeated this for about an hour on Saturday. Lorde’s voice — sultry, with a whiskey rasp (not literally, of course, because of her age and the water she drank throughout the performance) — was on-par with the recorded product. She even hit an impressive higher register during “Bravado.” Her heavily-produced album is filled with multi-layered backing vocals, and she was able to overcome these pre-recorded elements of her live show.
But unfortunately, the monotony of this mood becomes more apparent when Lorde performs live. Her album is full of heavy, mid-tempo tracks that focus on the downbeat and expertly-crafted melodies. The crowd watched her hits — “Tennis Court,” “Royals” and “Team” — through their smart phones, alternately dancing and documenting the moment for social media. Between those big moments, though, the atmosphere lost its momentum. What held the performance together was Lorde’s ego on stage. Even when the crowd didn’t necessarily connect with tracks like “Biting Down” and “Still Sane,” Lorde’s confidence commanded attention. To just see Lorde — her hair, black high-waisted pants, black top, black cape and black lipstick in contrast with her pale complexion — were enough to warrant Saturday night’s $100-plus scalper prices.
And you have to respect that Lorde didn’t save “Royals” for her encore. She didn’t even have an encore. Instead, she hit the crowd with confetti and strobes during “Team,” before closing with the thoughtful, “A World Alone.” A well-planned choice for a closing song, Lorde’s lyrics, “People are talking, people are talking,” hung in the air as the lights came up at the Fillmore.
Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.