Lorde, Lo-Fang Bayou Music Center March 5, 2014
The crowd screams for Lorde like she's a pop star. They roar at the start of every song, from her big singles to her album cuts to her Replacements cover. They cheer when she moves to their side of the stage or when she points out someone in the crowd.
They are not bothered by the fact that she doesn't move like a pop star or dress like a pop star or have the elaborate stage setup of a pop star. They don't even mind that her songs aren't overproduced messes or that she sings about subjects that upper-class artists ignore.
These are good things, because pop music needs someone like Lorde. Yeah, party-rocking and twerking may pack the arenas, but a sold-out crowd singing back more than just the hits makes a good argument that people care about what she has to say, too.
You will not get a lot of vocal gymnastics at a Lorde concert. The music she performs is never going to wow you for how many octaves she hits or how long she holds a note, but that doesn't mean she can't sing. She sounded clear and confident, especially when she got to those beautiful opening lines on "Bravado." She doesn't use any backup vocalists, instead relying on backing tracks to deliver faithful representations of her studio work.
Using the backing tracks was a smart decision on her part. On the whole her music is sparse, and even when it sounds full it's rarely dense. Extra vocalists would mess up the simplicity that often makes her material catchy.
And catchy it is. The beats are so solid that she regularly had the crowd -- girls, boys, men and women alike -- grooving to the music. Her lyrical content may be off the beaten path, but a solid groove is something everyone can get behind.
The most interesting part of the set came near the end, which saw her reworking two of her biggest singles. Although it sounds impossible, somehow the live version of "Royals" is both more sparse and overdramatic at the same time. Meanwhile, "Team" has gone from a catchy little number to a raging epic that should be the graduation song for every small-town high school in the country.
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Her age, of course, can't be ignored when it comes to appeal. When she banters onstage, she's really talking to the people her own age. There's sincerity there when she talks about growing up and not being able to go back to being a kid that adults can understand, but that teenagers can really feel.
Straddling that line between adult and teen is arguably what allows her to go down paths that other pop stars don't tread. Name another person in popular music right now (not named Kanye) that could use the line, "Only bad people live to see their likeness set in stone/What does that make me?" in a song and not have it sound completely ridiculous.
Sure, it's philosophy for the age of Instagram, but better that than "live/love/laugh" or "dance like no one is watching." That there's someone in pop music willing to talk about things like that is good. We can't twerk all the time.
Personal Bias: I still haven't decided if "Tennis Court" or "400 Lux" was my favorite song of 2013.
The Crowd: Lots of teenage girls, lots of parents of teenage girls.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Was that for us?", asked my roommate, in response to a couple who looked like they had just stumbled in from the Rodeo that started dancing in front of us.
Random Notebook Dump: Not a lot of people rocking Ash Wednesday ashes.
So, How Was the Opener? On a few of his tracks, Lo-Fang switches between playing a guitar and playing a violin. That's pretty cool to watch in person. The songs are a bit more interesting live than they are on record, but he seems like an artist to keep an eye on for now.
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