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Lorde Finally Arrives in Houston to Give Fans the Catharsis They Need

Lorde plays Houston.
Lorde plays Houston.
Photo courtesy of CAA

Lorde, Run The Jewels, Tove Styrke
Toyota Center
March 19, 2K18

I’ve seen great songs die a death live. You wait all set, knowing a song is coming, and when it drops you expect rapture only to get the bare minimum of enthusiasm. Sometimes the room is just bad, sometimes the band is off their game, sometimes there feels like there’s no reason for it to be that way at all, but it does happen, it’s always kind of weird and slightly uncomfortable.

The beauty of live performance is when you get to experience the opposite, when a song lands at the right time in front of the right crowd and you can feel the energy exploding through each person in the room and all around you. This type of full release is so rare that it stuns you and makes you reevaluate everything you thought about the performance before that moment.

There were plenty of folks disappointed last year when Lorde’s performance at Free Press Summer Fest was cancelled due to Houston weather being Houston weather, and that disappointment never felt too far away during Lorde’s return to Houston, largely because she wanted to talk about it, and when you’ve got the loudest mike in the room you can do that. She wanted Houston to know that our disappointment was her disappointment.

She didn’t need to win over this crowd, who were rabid for her from the first moment she appeared on stage, but I think being that open is what helped create a special moment that few in the crowd will soon forget. Sure, most major stars reach that point in a performance where they ask the crowd to make as much noise as they can, but when “Green Light” started you could feel the nervous energy of the crowd start to rise in anticipation. And as the piano dropped into the mix and the song charged on to the hook, the energy continued to rise. When the hook dropped, it felt like the entire crowd was moving with reckless abandon. It was the closest to an entire room of strangers experiencing pure joy at the same time, and it was beautiful.

So beautiful, in fact, I don’t remember what the rest of this review was going to be about. Something, I think, about the problem of trying to mash a show heavy on theatrics together with a star who is best when she’s just being open and honest, sitting next to a pile of lights in a white dress. Truth is, Lorde will eventually get to the point where she drops her classic arena stage show that we talk about for years, so rather than focus on what did and didn’t work, I choose, on this night at least, to remember that perfect moment of pop catharsis. Why would I want to think about anything else?

So, How Were the Openers?: I really hate to describe anyone making music in 2018 as “bubblegum” because that sounds needlessly insulting, but Tove Styrke is very bubblegum. A mix of the minimalism of Lorde’s first record with Taylor Swift pop, Styrke’s enthusiasm was apparent, but might be too sugary sweet for most. Run The Jewels were incredible, as to be expected, even if not everyone in the crowd was ready to jump on the bandwagon. The hip-hop duo knew that they had a tough night ahead of them, but they put in the work with a great set that won over at least a few fans. Also props to them for showing Scarface some love at the start of the show.

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Personal Bias: I listened to Melodrama all of once when it was released, and even having seen this show I’m not particularly enthused to revisit it given how much there is out there in the world to be listened to. It’s not a record for people like me, and that’s OK.; I’m not going to fault her for her development as an artist — although I doubt I’ll ever come around to being a fan of Jack Antonoff productions — when the problem is my stagnation as a listener.

The Crowd: Man, I miss being able to look up attendance figures after a show; an underappreciated aspect of RodeoHouston.I was surprised to learn that some consider her U.S. tour a flop, but that’s largely because I had assumed that they weren’t going to be selling the upper levels of the Toyota Center anyway. Lorde, to me at least, feels more like a “Woodlands pavilion without the lawn” level star, but I imagine the choice to play arenas was due to the technical aspects of the production.

Mutton Bustin’ Update, Day 21: There were no sheep at this show. Sad day.

Random Notebook Dump: There was a notable increase in security presence outside the venue before the show. I assume this has to do with what’s been going on in Austin recently, so it’s understandable if a little weird.

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