Lorde is barely even legal, but her music and live performance speaks volumes for someone so young. Filled with an energy that radiates outwardly you can’t help but be amazed and a little entranced by what you see on stage. Tonight would be first of two shows at the Hordern Pavilion for this New Zealand singer who has somehow taken over the world in recent months.
Our openers SAFIA are a trio of Canberrans who like to make indie electro music. It’s drenched in synth beats and reverb vocals and deep bass that creates these cinematic soundscapes. Singer Ben Woolner has a phenomenal range and hits some beautiful high and low notes and their music switches from spacious to compacted. Their cover of James Vincent McMorrow’s “Cavalier” would’ve been almost perfect, except it was overloaded by too much bass. And I always struggle with electro acts mainly because it’s more about the sounds and less about the lyrics. It’s possible that I’d be more inclined to this occasional chill-out style music if I was in a different sort of headspace. It’s just not really my regular bag but they were a great choice for support, as their music complemented well with our headliner.
Lorde has one of those guttural primal voices that resonates from somewhere deep down and slowly builds and bubbles up and out of her. Standing beneath a chandelier decor wearing enormous wide leg black pants, a white blouse, a black jacket and drenched in the spotlight, she commands the attention of the room as she rumbles through “Glory and Gore”. What appeared to be a plain backdrop was a curtain that drops to reveal her ‘backing band’ of a drummer and synth programmer playing the occasional guitar as we smooth on into “Biting Down”. One of the things you notice with Lorde, aside from her vocals, is her erratic dancing and gesticulations. At first it might look a little ridiculous, but soon enough you can see just how consumed and in the moment she is whilst she performs. Her movements are just as much a part of her onstage charisma as her voice and surprisingly not once do you catch her out of breath. With all the flailing going on, she’s nailed everything down in the timing so well that it never affects the song or how she’s singing. That right there is the sign of an experienced and mindful performer.
Both “White Teeth Teens” and “Buzzcut Season” have those wispy and ethereal sounds tied in with staccato like click beats that gets our front-lady popping and locking and showing off her higher range vocals. These two tracks feel a little lighter than the majority of her set which comes across as brooding and shadowy. To pad out her set Lorde includes her covers of The Replacements’ “Swingin Party” and Son Lux’s “Easy”, the former features on her extended cut of Pure Heroine. There are only a few moments where Lorde engages with some banter to the crowd but just before she breaks into “Bravado” she admits that it’s one of the first songs she’d ever written, and once again we’re reminded that her age is no barrier to her talent. As she starts coasting towards the end of her set she does a quick costume change into this billowing gold cloak poncho type thing that shimmers as her arms wave from side to side. We then get her enormous worldwide Grammy winning hit song “Royals” back to back with “Team”, both eliciting rapturous cheers and sing-a-long and foot stomping on the bleachers from the sold-out room audience. Lorde thanks us for ‘bringing the thunder’. Then as she closes the night with “A World Alone” and with a few more flourishes of her hands and arms we’re bid a ‘thank you and goodnight’ and the evening is all over without an encore. It was literally a go to woah performance.
There’s no denying that there’s something captivating about Lorde, her powerful voice demands to be heard. But musically I also found myself struggling to connect as there wasn’t enough variation amongst the pace or feel of the songs. They all seem to have electronically synth generated beats that rarely change tempo. I’d be interested to see her expand her instrumentation use on her next record to just add a little more organic sound to the mix. Credit where credit is due though, she is an inspiration and role model to many of the young teenage girls that dominated the audience. Somebody who is unafraid of letting the music wash over and consume her and to allow herself to be free in the performance. Peter Garrett or Mick Jagger style dance-moves, flipping her voluminous curly long hair around and performing to us all like it was somebody’s lounge room. At one point during the set she commented how the first time she graced Sydney she was playing at GoodGod Small Club which barely holds 300 people, now she’s playing two shows at the Hordern Pavilion. If her career trajectory starts going any higher, her next visit will see her on stage at the Allphones Arena no doubt.