"I'm terrified of being an adult," Lorde told a packed house toward the end of her concert Thursday night at Comerica Theatre.
Given the way the 17-year-old songstress' debut album, Pure Heroine, dominated the latter half of 2013, and given her lyrics -- coolly defiant celebrations of suburbia, rejections of pop culture excesses -- you can see why the dominant narrative (and by that I mean a 17-year-old wary of the spotlight her expert songwriting propelled her into) surrounding her is so pervasive. Her biggest hit, "Royals," an inescapable song of the summer, contains lyrics famously derisive of the wealthy lifestyle music stars love to brag about -- "I've never seen a diamond in the flesh," "We'll never be royals / It don't run in our blood." In the same song, she offers an alternative. "Let me be your ruler / You can call me Queen Bee."
But to call her precocious -- she is 17, after all -- would be demeaning. She's mature, and she carries herself like someone who knows exactly what she's doing. It was clear throughout the night that she was the one in charge; her creative vision dominated the night.
She's the anti-Miley Cyrus. Look at Hannah Montana's latest tour, complete with multiple costume changes, elaborate sets, and raunchy dance moves, and you'll see a completely different type of star's performance, one that relies on sensual over-saturation and overt sexualization to enthrall audiences. Lorde's live show sits on the opposite end of the spectrum. Everything about her performance was about as minimalistic as pop stars with number one hits can get.
The show began with Los Angeles musician Lo-Fang, a multi-instrumentalist backed by a drummer and a synths player. The band played its entire set in front of a simple black curtain, the only other adornment being a single chandelier hanging from the rafters down toward the center of the stage. The only noteworthy thing about Lo-Fang's set was the way it ended. After finishing its last song, the band just . . . put their instruments down and left. Pretty sure I saw an awkward wave from the singer as well. Then the lights came on. No warning, nothing. I've seen better stage exits at a high school talent show.
Normally, I'd chalk this up to poor planning on behalf of the behind-the-scenes stage managers. But I'm at a Lorde show, so it made me wonder. Was this part of Master Lorde's grand aesthetic? Maybe Lo-Fang's low-key exit was just a giant middle finger to professionalism, Lorde's way of injecting her anti-flamboyant ethos into every part of her concert.
The fact that these thoughts even occur is a testament to just how different a pop star Lorde is. Between sets, all the audience could see on the stage was the chandelier and the black curtain, bathed in purple light. When the show started, the lights went out and Lorde emerged and performed "Glory and Gore" with no one else on stage. She began the second song and the curtain dropped, revealing just two backing musicians playing in front of an elegant, red opera curtain and a sparsely decorated set, complete with three empty picture frames suspended above the band.
Yet there was something odd in seeing a 17-year-old sing "I've never seen a diamond in the flesh" while surrounded by tens of thousands of dollars of lights and speakers. Make no mistake, Lorde is a pop star. A willing one. She might not be "proud of my address," as she sings in "Royals," but her parents (a poet mother and engineer father) surely are -- the median price of a home in Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand, is nearly $700,000. Even Rolling Stone, which is usually pretty light on criticism for subjects of its cover stories, said that another suburb just a 10-minute drive from Takapuna smelled of "affluenza and the ocean." You have to wonder if she's in denial of both the wealth she was born into and the wealth she's made as a singer, just another affluent teenager stricken with white guilt.
I'm just curious about what comes next for the pop singer. She's clearly talented; her show at Comerica was nearly flawless, complete with her signature dance moves and an expert light show. But how long can she ride this anti-consumerist wave? How long can she write songs about riding buses to parties while selling thousands of tickets a night in countries on the other side of the world from her homeland? The next move is Lorde's to make, and the possibilities are endless.
Last Night: Lorde and Lo-Fang at Comerica Theatre
The Crowd: Young, young, young. Teens old enough to attend without their parents, and many young enough to still need chaperones. I realized how infrequently I am around teenagers anymore, since with the exceptions of two cousins all my friends and family are either over the age of 21 or under the age of 6.
Overheard: "See me again? I've never even met you!" -- Dad joke of the night, said to his pre-teen daughter, who was sitting right next to me, after Lo-Fang's singer said something like "Nice to see you again, Phoenix."
Personal Bias: I really, really like "Royals." That said, I think the rest of Pure Heroine doesn't come close to matching that song's quality.
B-Girl Represent: Lorde's dance moves have gotten a lot of flack ever since her Grammy performance. But I love them. She jerks her arms in time to the subtlest musical cues; she almost conducts the backing band with her hands. It demonstrates a total mastery of her music. There's no doubt she has scrutinized and perfected every beat of every measure of her songs. She is undoubtedly their author.
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