LORDE @ Kings Park & Botanic Garden
w/ George Maple
Saturday, November 18, 2017
When a cruel plague went through the X-Press office, the Editor had just one semi-literate rock and roll reviewer to turn to. Having listened to very little Lorde previously, let alone an album – save for the odd night out or in his ex-girlfriend’s car – this dedicated reviewer, yours truly, took on the challenge with great conviction.
You would think the first thing one would do on such an occasion is to familiarise oneself with the artist’s repertoire and their background. Well, I chose a different direction. I would treat this review like going to see a new artist I’d heard about down at Amps or Mojos (albeit one who’s mates with Taylor Swift and got endorsed by Bowie). With an open mind and a desire to have a good time, off I went!
King’s Park’s Botanic Garden is a magic location and tonight the lawns were packed with picnic baskets and teenage girls accompanied by their Mums and Dads. Front of stage, where tickets wanted upwards of $150 each, was conspicuously less full with a cordoned off right-of-stage the domain of almost-rowdy pop-moshers.
While navigating the bar where $10 Madfish Bottles were flogged for $40, Lorde’s main support, George Maple, transported us all to a Sunday night at the X Factor auditions. There was just George (who is a woman) on stage in 10-inch boots with not even a solitary DJ to accompany her. She stalked the stage to her melodramatic, R’n’B synth-pop, engaging with the crowd and they seemed to be digging it. Artistically though, it sounded mass-produced, contrived and fake. A copy of a copy of a copy. I read an interview with her afterwards and she said she “grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Chris Isaak” – give her time, who knows, she might produce something worthwhile yet.
When Lorde hit the stage at 8:50 on the dot the crowd went wild and we began our hour-long foray into the prodigious 21 year-old’s head. The stage was set up minimally with just a morphing neon sculpture to distract from the blackness. Behind her were two lifeless keyboard players and a drummer (the lack of interaction with the band was notable throughout the set). The lush synthetic soundscape sounded huge, almost too big for what was before us physically, and Lorde’s lower range alto voice cascaded out, accompanied by her characteristic jolty dancing.
It was easy listening, but very repetitive once the set got under way. Lorde’s stage presence was palpable and she clearly wields a confidence with her performance. That said her between-song interactions were a little too obviously rehearsed – they were just a little too charming – not that anyone seemed to care. Tennis Court, Magnets, The Louvre and A World Alone carried the first half of the set at even tempo. Then came an xylophone interlude that was a tinge eerie before ballad Liability saw the whole valley lift up their phones (the cool kids their lighters) much to the delight and awe of their idol. You could tell she was grateful!
After a few frilly-dress costume changes (they accentuated her dance moves) the business end of the set ensued with mega-hit Royals – the standout track – followed in quick succession by Perfect Places, Team and the rather invigorating Green Light.
For the life of me, I wasn’t hearing the hooks that so many of the crowd were entranced by. Damn near everything sounded the same. But I now look back and think “that’s why they all love it”!
Critically there’s never a bad word said about Lorde, there’s a lot of slack cut out for her due to her age and temperament. From the perspective of her fans she seems to encapsulate late teens’ hopes and dreams in love and life. It’s Lorde’s ordinariness combined with her otherworldliness that’s the appeal here. She uses simple language in her lyricism to convey common feeling – directness not poetry. She’s got a formula, she’s got a beat, she’s got a sound, she’s got a look, she’s built a market, she’s got a huge future – and good on her – she made a lot of peoples’ nights.
Photos by Mia Campbell-Foulkes