Lorde walked onstage with more than 4,500 people waiting for her to blow them away. The two-time Grammy winner donned her copyrighted look at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom—blown-out curls, deep purple lips and her black and white dress. Having already sold more than a million records on her debut album, this was her first stop in Chicago, and tickets sold out in less than 24 hours.
The crowd ranged from under-dressed teens to middle-aged women to drunken twenty-somethings. Coherent or not, every person in the overflowing room expected—demanded—her to be perfect.
Opening the show solo with “Glory and Gore” from Pure Heroine, the 17-year-old New Zealander sang simply and beautifully, although her vocals were nearly impossible to be heard over the screaming and shouting of lyrics by every overly anxious member of the audience.
She continued with the robotic dancing we all got to witness during the 2014 Grammys, for which she received quite a bit of flack and labels of “seizure-like moves,” yet these characteristics seemed fitting with this new image of what Lorde has become. She’s a pop singer, yes, but her beat-infused tracks are not the same as your Miley Cyrus anthems or Justin Bieber R&B tracks. Lorde—born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor—is different.
Singing from behind her large veil of hair, she moved into songs from The Love Club, her voice remaining strong and steady throughout a variety of vocal variations and elongated notes that were not present on the recorded tracks. With the hype around this artist and her instant success, one can easily forget that her voice is shockingly mature and textured.
As the pop artist became more comfortable with the overwhelming size and grandeur that is the Aragon Ballroom, she began to open up and chat casually with the crowd—at one point even asking someone to toss her a hair tie. This gesture did not come across as a purposeful rock ‘n’ roll attempt; she really just needed to pull her hair back. And with that, she got lost in her favorite dance move, a hidden twitch of her head from beneath her curls.
“I get to speak to you, and you listen,” Lorde said. “I couldn’t be more thankful.” She then launched into a winded, but earnest, description of the house party she hosted while her parents were out of town nearly a year ago.
This party provided the material for her track “Ribs,” and she described it as the first thing she had done that was “decidedly adult.” Given her description of the party—the overwhelming amount of people, trash and food strewn about and the simple fact that overly-sized house parties are most certainly not adult-like—only contributed to the overall feel and understanding of her music and artistry. The theme of adulthood is almost overbearing throughout Pure Heroine, and Lorde’s continuous struggle with what it means to truly be an adult is apparent and sincere. She sang on in credence to her first adult decision, “It feels so scary, getting old.”
Unintentionally, Lorde built an image in the heads of those in the audience that matched the lyrics provided in her songs. Her innocence, awkward attempts at conversation and genuine admiration of the greatness of the world provide an honesty and trueness to her lyrics.
“I really, really love this city a lot,” she exclaimed, looking at what she referred to as an indoor castle. “It’s beautiful. You’re lucky.”
Later, she changed into an oversized gold cape/dress/mumu, surely fulfilling one of her lifelong royalty dreams, just before her last two tracks. She belted out the famous lyrics to “Team,” “We live in cities you’ll never see on screen / Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things / Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams,” and it was touching how surreal this very experience must have been for her—singing to thousands, in a makeshift castle, in the foreign, massive city of Chicago.
Catch Lorde on tour:
3/26 – 3/27/14 Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater
4/11/14 Indio, CA @ Empire Polo Club
4/15 – 4/16/14 Las Vegas, NV @ Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
4/17/14 Phoenix, AZ @ Comerica Theatre
4/18/14 Indio, CA @ Empire Polo Club