In today’s pop music landscape in which it often seems that artists are trying to out-crude each other (cue, for example, “You know what to do with that big fat butt”), Lorde — currently only 17 years old — instead has songs that critique materialism and intelligently address social anxiety.
And, instead of trying to appeal to our baser instincts, it turns out that she is a poised yet dynamic performer, as was clear at her sold-out show at the Santa Barbara Bowl last Thursday. #HopeForTheNextGeneration
Lorde sang every song from her only album, last year’s Pure Heroine, plus a couple from an earlier EP (Bravado, which was strikingly visually adorned with super-cool smoke-filled bubbles, and Biting Down). There was also one new song (“Yellow Flicker Beat” from the Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 soundtrack) and a Bon Iver cover (“Heavenly Father”). #HowDidTheyGetSmokeInTheBubbles
The show highlight was “Royals,” which exploded a year ago into a worldwide hit, and is about Lorde’s disillusionment with society’s obsession with money and fancy things. Instead, she craves “a different kind of buzz.” For this song, an old-style marquee descended from above the stage, reading “Tonight the Tragic and Wonderful Triumphal Procession of Lorde,” and giant red theater curtains provided a backdrop that matched Lorde’s radiant red robes. #BestMinmalPopSongSinceOSuperman
Her other hits — “Tennis Court” and “Team,” which had pieces of confetti that had a drawing of Lorde raining down on the people in the pit — were also especially well-received by the audience. For the record, the latter contains my favorite Lorde lyric: “I’m kind of over being told to throw my hands up in the air,” to me a declaration that we see through the superficiality and sameness of much of today’s music. #SoThere
Lorde opened up a bit to the audience as she introduced “Ribs,” talking about how crazy the last year had been for her, and telling the audience how welcome she, a New Zealander, feels in America. The song itself no doubt resonated with many in the audience, both young and old, with lines like “It feels so scary getting old” and “I’ve never felt more alone.” #WhatADragItIsGettingOld
Throughout the evening, Lorde gracefully flipped around her rather impressive hair and danced in a berobed free-form frenzy as she sang, with her music’s minimal yet expansive sound nicely captured by the rather anonymous band — a keyboard player and drummer — plus some prerecorded backing tracks for the vocal harmonies. #SometimesLessIsMore
All told, it was a truly amazing concert by a truly amazing performer. But don’t take my word for it: between songs, a little girl’s yell to Lorde summed it all up: “You’re magical!” #YesSheIs
Glory and Gore
White Teeth Teens
Heavenly Father (Bon Iver cover)
Yellow Flicker Beat
A World Alone
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.