She stood tall and lean at the Austin Music Hall, flanked by two anonymous bodies and their smokestack electronics, first date of her tour and first show since netting a Grammy for Song of the Year. The place was stuffed: teens, snobs, a whole grip of stressed-out moms. Obvious first concert for a number of souls. Good. Pop’s majesty was on full display.
Lorde tells us she wrote “Ribs” in the twilight hours of a high school party – as her house emptied and the unfinished drinks were poured listlessly down the drain.
“It was the moment where we realized we were doing grown-up things,” says the 17-year-old New Zealander.
Faded strands of synthesizer and a silent bass pulse: “The drink you spilled on me/ ‘Lover’s Spit’ left on repeat/ My mom and dad let me stay home / It drives you crazy getting old.”
It’s a song about that brief flash of self-awareness that comes in the midst of your teenaged years, where the things adults do start to make sense. It’s an exciting and frightening time – your first flash of what you’ve left behind. Amazing that a girl born in 1996 wrote one of the best songs about aging, but we’ve already come to expect just such posture from Lorde.
Her team installs and illuminates a chandelier high above the stage for “Royals,” such audacity! No surprise, really. She gleefully raps over the chopped-and-screwed “Tennis Court,” while an oscillating flare of feedback burns a hole right through the sweat on “400 Lux,” guided by the poetry of a thousand shrieks.
She covers “Swingin Party,” a Replacements song, and tells the crowd it sort of feels like she wrote it herself.
God bless the honesty of Lorde. God bless her cult, god bless young talent both unbelievably popular and happily unrefined, god bless a crowd of kids far too enchanted to talk through the deep cuts. Maybe even bless the music industry for trusting her with her own songs, her own style, her own voice.
Too early to say whether Lorde’s riskiness will lead to her pop culture banishment. Plenty of artists have had difficulty confronting their earliest truths. What will 25-year old Ella Yelich-O’Connor think of Pure Heroine. Will she still be Lorde? The young woman in front of us stood unspoiled by the pop industry, but sold-out crowds can put muses behind red tape.
Lorde on a black and white stage, singing to other 17 year olds. Her words didn’t pass through fumbled nostalgia. The perspectives were neither borrowed nor bought.
This is her life and times. They relate to Lorde, and Lorde relates right back. We know we’re on each other’s team.
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