A mood hung over Manhattan last Friday — maybe due to the low grey clouds mixed with summer humidity — but weather notwithstanding, it was bound to be a Melodramatic day as Lorde’s second LP filled the space between the headphones and ear drums of morning commuters with magic. About 12 hours later she would fill Bowery Ballroom with that same magic at an exclusive release-day concert for Sirius XM.
The dichotomy of a day at the office blurred by monotony and a night of the town blurred by youth (and various substances) isn’t lost on Lorde or her fans; the ephemeralness of youth and inescapability of adulthood can be heard on Melodrama front to back. When the lights went down, a sliver of light shone through the cracked stage door and those lucky to be close enough got a glimpse of Lorde (real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor) amping herself up, jumping around in white Adidas tennis shoes. Opening the show with “Homemade Dynamite” (one of Melodrama’s many highlights), Lorde appropriately sets expectations: quickly flowing pre-choruses that melt into luscious refrains to keep all the dancers in the crowd on their toes.
Lorde continued through her release-day show with an excitable effortlessness. Her visible giddiness from sharing songs that once belonged to only her combined with her signature, flailing dance moves served up an inarguable authenticity. Flexing all of her performative muscles, Lorde shifted between moments of live magic at the hands of nuanced production (the seconds of quiet in “The Louvre”) and open connection with the crowd via gut-wrenching lyrics (one attendee sobbed during “Liability”). “Everyone leaves,” she said of her thoughts while writing the latter.
But the 20-year-old’s ability to infuse the air with her energy, through her music, is nearly unmatched in music’s current landscape, which became clear during an a capella encore of “Writer In the Dark.” Quieting a screaming crowd, she began without a mic except when it would pick up her echo as she moved from one side of the stage to another. Exuding power and confidence, she shushed the front row of a packed Bowery Ballroom so even those in the back could hear the raw, unplugged delivery. It has always been clear that Lorde is an extremely talented writer and artist, but her performance of “Writer In the Dark” showcased an emotive strength of voice to be reckoned with.
The magic of Lorde, Melodrama and the show rests with feeling: the tingling rush of new love, the dull, prolonged sting of loneliness, the fear that “someday” might actually be today and the restlessness in trying to make sense of them all.
— Christian Kennedy
It wasn’t long after I found out I’d be spending a few hot months in New York City that I established my primary goal for the summer: befriend Ella Yelich-O’Connor, a.k.a Lorde. Before the singer’s anthemic single “Greenlight” dropped in March, I hadn’t considered myself a superfan, but let’s just say that Lorde’s new heartbroken-twentysomething-spends-summer-in-the-city aesthetic hit home and cemented “Greenlight,” and consequently the rest of her new album, as staples within the soundtrack of my subway commutes.
Last Friday afternoon, I was at work attempting (unsuccessfully) to write a coherent article while taking in the magnitude of the just-released Melodrama, when Christian (see above) texted me: “OMFG Lorde is doing a show at the Bowery Ballroom tonight.” Lorde had tweeted about the show in New York just hours before she was set to take the stage; And after a couple of frantic emails and eventually just showing up, we managed to find ourselves in the second-row of the sensual Bowery Ballroom, just one really-long-arm’s-length from the stage.
The surrounding crowd was a mixed bag of characters tethered together by a common radiating enamoredness with Lorde. Throughout the evening, two different audience members told me, “Pure Heroine is the only reason I made it through high school.” A fifty-something year-old man to my left glanced at his fourteen year-old daughter, an aspiring musician, and said, “You know, we have immense respect for Lorde, she’s really an inspiration for my daughter.” To my right, a mid-twenties Brooklyn-based music blogger anxiously clutched a thick packet of papers: an old college essay about Lorde that he planned to toss onto the stage. Lorde’s crowds aren’t limited to one demographic, but rather a diverse group of individuals who feel an intense, electric kinship with the artist.
Across ages, genders and sexual orientations, there was a deliberate, almost studious dedication in the way we sang word-for-word the lyrics of Melodrama tracks that had been released only a few hours earlier; just as there was an instinctual, visceral way in which some wept as Lorde sat and crooned “Liability” at the stoop of the stage. That’s the thing about Lorde — at only 20, she infuses her melodies with a dangerous concoction of intellectualism and emotional insight that grants her special access to our minds as well as our hearts.
I walked out of the Bowery Ballroom last Friday haunted by the echoes of Lorde’s encore — an acapella rendition of “Writer in the Dark.” She had tenderly hushed the crowd as she sang in an octave that rang more like a whimper: “I am my mother’s child, I’ll love you ‘til my breathing stops.” In that final chorus, Lorde captured the essence of her second album: the paradoxical coexistence of all-consuming love and longing alongside a keen awareness of the melodrama of youth.
— Avery Friedman