While much of the music world (and much of this website) is in SXSW-mode, Los Angeles played host to Lorde's huge-scale arena tour on March 14 at Staples Center. Support was esoterically provided by Tove Styrke and Run the Jewels for what proved to be a great night.
The show's early start time forced me to miss Swedish singer Tove Styrke (who's extremely catchy single "Say My Name" was a highlight of 2017), but I was there for Run the Jewels, who it seems need no description at this point. They were great, and the crowd, who was still filtering in at this point, really took to them, even if they didn't seem to be extremely familiar. Such is the power of Run the Jewels, though, that they play almost as well to an arena half-full of Lorde fans as they do to a festival crowd packed with die-hards. Their energy is infectious -- while they might occupy a slightly different musical universe from Lorde, there's an authenticity and a genuine-ness that comes through clearly to an audience. As the crowd filled up, they had everyone thoroughly in their corner. They blew through an already enviable catalogue of bangers, getting everyone suitably hyped for the night to come.
Lorde took the stage around 9 PM and delivered an amazing, arena-filling set. I find Lorde to be a fascinating figure in today's pop music landscape. Melodrama, for all the breathless critical reception it received, did not actually yield a hit single. Yet Lorde is able to sell out the Staples center and, perhaps more than that, she seems like an absolutely vital figure within a pop ecosystem that currently feels able to sustain legitimately challenging artistic output in a way that it hasn't in years. [Ed Droste might disagree with some of that - Bill.] Lorde covered Frank Ocean's "Solo" at Staples, during a three-song piano-ballad run that served as a hinge-point of the set (as she's been doing all tour). The comparison between the two contemporary pop musicians helped illuminate what makes Lorde so singular. Her music isn't, for all it's merits, particularly challenging. It's actually quite the opposite -- it's relatable, almost transcendently so. She described "Solo" as a song about being alone, which she also said about her own "Liability," which followed. What the songs, and the two artists, have in common is an ability to locate and give voice to simple, universal, precise emotional truths. Lorde showcased that all evening, and the audience was extremely receptive.
Even in such a large setting, Lorde's highly relatable personality shined through to everyone in the room -- she seemed genuinely glad to be there. The sparse (by pop-star standards) production design helped highlight the emotional content of the songs. She was flanked by a small group of dancers and not much else, and their choreography enhanced each performance, always highlighting Lorde's presence as the eye of the storm. I'm biased towards the newer material, but it was my favorite songs, like "The Louvre," "Supercut" and set-closer "Green Light," that brought the crowd to a frenzy and also, again, communicated something more intimate than a space like the Staples center should by all rights allow.
I don't know what exactly it is about Lorde that makes up her specific appeal. Part of it might be her age, or the fact that she seems like a genuine music geek in a way that appeals specifically to music writers. During the outro of "The Louvre," a song that deals with a kind of millennial-specific love, Lorde was carried around on her back by her backup dancers. That section borrows the main riff from "Born to Run," and as Lorde sang that riff after the song had dwindled and she had been restored to a standing position, I couldn't help but think that invoking the Boss was appropriate. There's something related in the way that Lorde speaks to my generation and the way that Bruce spoke to his -- both just feel like one of us in a way that can't really be faked. Of course it helps that Lorde is one of the best pure pop songwriters to come along in awhile, and that, coupled with her elegantly human-sized persona, made last night a memorable one.
Lorde's world tour continues into the spring--she'll be in the NYC area with Run the Jewels and Mitski for a couple of show in April. They hit Barclays Center on April 4 and Newark's Prudential Center on April 6 (tickets).
Check out more pics and videos from the show below.
SETLIST: Lorde @ Staples Center 3/14/2018 (via)
Magnets (Disclosure cover)
Yellow Flicker Beat
Writer in the Dark
Solo (Frank Ocean cover)
Sober II (Melodrama)