NEW YORK — By the time Lorde skulked onstage at her New York show on Monday night (the first of three), the former ballroom floor was packed with teens, tweens, moms, dads, music critics, lovers, first dates and drunken coworkers.
Chaperones leaned against the wall as girls moved in strings throughout the sweaty sold-out crowd, lacing fingers so they didn't get separated. As they pushed in to get closer, Lorde, a.k.a. Ella Yelich-O'Connor, floated to the microphone in wide-legged pants, a white tank and black military jacket. She gazed seductively at the balcony, and as the bass throbbed around her, she opened with "Glory and Gore."
The curtain behind her dropped to reveal her band — a drummer, and a guy manning the synths — and candles on pedestals. The spotlight shone on her like a flashlight illuminating a ghost-storyteller. She swayed through Pure Heroine tracks like "Tennis Court," "White Teeth Teens" and, of course, "Royals," when every single person in the house was singing along. She also resurfaced tracks like "Bravado" and "Biting Down" from her Love Club EP.
She lustily sang covers of The Replacements' "Swingin Party" ("I didn't write this song, but I wish I had.") and Son Lux's "Easy," which she rerecorded for Son Lux's upcoming EP. During "Easy," the music was her puppeteer: When the baritone sax sample sounded, she hunched forward and whipped herself back. The stick clattering of the percussion had her shaking. And when she sang, a creepy undertone came out from beneath. It was as if we were witnessing a music-induced exorcism.
Lorde told the crowd about a party she had with her sister when their parents were out of town — a party so big that people were taking food from the freezer. After a raucous night, she and her best friend collapsed in her bed. "There's something crazy about following the behaviors of adults," she said. "It's something that wakes me up at night and makes me scared."
"I wanted to make that feeling tangible and make this song sound soft," she explained about her next song, "Ribs." "It's a greeny color in my head. It helps me with this."
For the most part, Lorde's set reveled in its simplicity — she moved with her minimalistic beats; black and white took away from the complexity of color (except for a wash of purple from the lights); graphics on a screen behind her showed a reflecting pool or evergreens passing from a car window. For a performer with teen fans and songs with long lives on the Billboard charts, Lorde is nothing like her chart-topping counterparts. Her show is the exact opposite of bestie Taylor Swift. There were no catwalks, no surprise guests, no video interludes.
Before she left with album-closer "A World Alone," she threw the minimalism of the night away, layering her vocals to the intro of "Team." Her voice built up, and the bass buzzed so violently that ice rattled against plastic cups and the floor shook. Colors flooded from the ceiling, smoke created a haze, almost hiding Lorde and the band. With the "Team" singer gone, we just started dancing with each other.
"We live in cities you'll never see onscreen/ Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things/ Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams/ And you know, we're on each other's team."
Creeping back onstage after her only costume change of the night, Lorde joined us for the song's last chorus in a metallic gold robe, solidifying her Queen B status. The music blared and we sang along with her. In finale mode, she summoned the party-ending climax. Confetti viciously shot from cannons and rained down on us, Lorde smirking the whole time as her fans erupted with bliss.