Lorde opens herself up to thousands of fans on her Melodrama tour

When she was 16, LORDE shot to international stardom off the back of her debut single, ‘Royals’. Her first album, Pure Heroine, captured the world’s attention, contrasting small town teenage life with lush imagery and luxurious metaphor. Backed with left of centre production and boundary pushing composition, every element of these tracks altered the established pop formula as she rose higher in the charts. With such an industry shifting first offering and speedy trajectory into fame, you would think that something within Ella Yelich-O’Connor must have changed by now, or that the unique circumstances that lead to this album’s popularity could not be repeated. Four years later, on her world tour for her sophomore album Melodrama, she proved in stunning form that she’s still that small town poet from New Zealand that we know and love.

In the forecourt of Sydney’s Opera House, Lorde treated a crowd of thousands to a very personal show. From the staging to the visual interludes throughout the set, every part of the performance was put there to accentuate the story she’s telling through her music. The three part performance was punctuated with dreamy VCR visuals as Lorde set each chapter with a monologue and neon imagery. With the stage featuring a glowing astronaut and backed with crushed velvet, she burst into view opening her performance with the songs that shot her into stardom in the first place. Tracks like ‘Tennis Court’ and ‘Homemade Dynamite’ got the crowd reeling, with the forecourt echoing with thousands of voices mirroring the lyrics back to the writer. She fed off the crowds energy, dancing back and forth across the stage to take in every face in the audience.

As the stage turned to darkness, an old TV switched on for an interlude as Lorde’s disembodied voice floated over the crowd talking about being obsessed with love, despite having never seen it herself. An arch of neon flowers lit up the stage as she emerged in a new outfit, her second of three that all featured sparkling flowy fabrics to catch every movement of her body in the lights. The rambunctious energy of the opening of the show was replaced with a quiet power, now more concentrated as she moved into her more emotional material.

Before launching into ‘Ribs’, Lorde laughed with thousands of fans about the irony of writing about getting old back when she was only 16, now being a few weeks from her 21st birthday. She talked again to the crowd between songs as if they were old friends, picking up gifts thrown on stage and responding to the more eager voices above the rest with a smile. Her voice sounded relieved when she talked about being back in Sydney, reminiscing about her first show at Goodgod Small Club and how much of an honour it was to be able to play at a venue like the Opera House and for a crowd that feels like home.

“This is the crying show, the crying and dancing show and everything in between,” she said as the chords of ‘Liability’ became clearer under her voice. With just the piano and the biting poignancy of the vocals, the crowd was lulled into quiet, entranced by the young woman baring her soul on stage. The performance was her most vulnerable of the night, with plenty of Lorde‘s songs touching on deep emotions but none of them having those extended piano fills for her to bite back her tears.

She closed the middle of the show with a triumphant cover of Hunters and Collectors to build to the home stretch.  A shooting star signified the last chapter of the concert, its bright neon symbolising the triumph and promise of growing up in her new album. Here we got all of her biggest tunes, with ‘Supercut’ and ‘Royals’ getting the crowd hyped on their echoing drums and earworm melodies. She jumped down from the stage during ‘Perfect Places’ to share the crowd’s euphoria as they embraced her with wide eyes and open arms. The apex of entire night was the finale, as the emotional catharsis of ‘Greenlight’ got everyone screaming along and dancing away their heartbreak under fireworks.

Lorde poured her vulnerabilities and most genuine and soft parts of herself into Melodrama and in touring this album around the world, shared that part of herself with everyone who experienced her perform it live.  That genuine joy for life and endearing down to earth quality that Lorde brings made for a really engaging show. The inclusion of her Pure Heroine era tracks really stuck out among the newer releases, feeling more obligatory than necessary and showing how much she’s grown as a songwriter. She’s moved from soundtracking the ups and downs of outcasts with purple prose, to making energetic and genuinely affecting pop. Her performance showed that she’s far bigger than a recording can hold, delivering a raw energy and reckless abandon in experiencing and expressing emotion, friendship, and, even if she doesn’t believe it, love.

IMAGE BY PRUDENCE UPTON

WORDS BY HOLLY O’NEILL

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