Dressed in a navy suit and a little grin on her face, seventeen year-old Ella Yelich-O’Connor sauntered on to an empty stage at the 1stBank Center last night around 9:00pm. The stage was dark and silent, but the six thousand people watching her approach went absolutely mad. Ella - better known to the world as Lorde - played Denver for the second time this year last night, and her 90 minute set showed more artistry and passion than I could have ever expected from someone who’s been catapulted to fame over the quick course of one year.
As the opening track “Glory and Gore” began, it was just Lorde on stage between two giant streetlights with a black drape hung behind her. The beginning of the set felt a bit restricted and awkward, just watching Lorde on stage by herself with no one and nothing to bounce off other than the crazed crowd. I was a bit concerned; unsure how this kind of presence could possibly carry an entire set, but at the end of song three, “Tennis Courts”, the curtain dropped showing a keyboardist and drummer on stage as well. As quickly as the curtain dropped, every aspect of the show changed. Lorde’s movements on stage began to loosen and open up, taking every chance to interact with the stage, her fans, and her band. I found myself enjoying every single second of the set from there on out.
The show flowed with grace and ease, playing tracks “Killing Time” and “Biting Down” between prop additions and costume changes. A show with only three performers has potential to feel slightly empty but the props on stage allowed for a beautiful performance. Smoke bubbles, a giant custom carved box, huge LED screens outlined with golden crown molded frames, and Lorde’s outfits - three differently colored versions of a simple crop top with matching harem pants - all lent themselves to setting the mood. Another notable aspect of the set was Lorde herself: voice smooth as butter through every song, a stark difference from the sharp, wild movements of her body and hair. Big pop productions in the same realm as this often have the tendency to go over-the-top with their stage layouts, and I appreciated the simple elegance that came with her show. The stage was dynamic with moving pieces helping set the mood song to song, but there was nothing so outrageous it distracted the audience from the music, and that is a mark of a true musician in my eyes.
The show beginning to end was built around the music telling a story. LED screens played different video pieces for each song in the background, and she chose to cover “Heavenly Father” by Bon Iver, and use Kanye’s “Flashing Lights” as an interlude. Rather than ending with a radio single or a super upbeat track like “Million Dollar Bills”, she chose to close with “A World Alone”, the track that also closes her debut album Pure Heroine. Everything Lorde does, from the music she makes to the shows she performs are thoughtful and calculated. She is quirky and weird, certainly still a teenager merely trapped in a surreal world of fame and fortune. But unlike many of her peers, it is clear that she protects her music and does with it only what she feels is right, not what is dictated by anyone else. I foresee a lovely future for this new princess of pop.
I leave you with a lovely quote from one of the few moments Lorde took last night to stop the show and soak in the evening. “The last time I came to Denver it was so cold, and it was snowing and it was beautiful. I never thought I would feel so at home so far (away) from home. You live in such a beautiful place, but what makes me want to come back here is you guys. I feel like I kind of know you, and that's cool for me.”
We’d like to think we know you too, Ella, and that’s cool for us. You’re welcome in Colorado anytime.