It was the hum of a modishly dressed crowd excitedly chatting inside the Enmore Theatre’s foyer that was a strong indication the artist everyone had come to see that night would be of an ontrend calibre. The demigoddess of song, filling those high-heeled shoes of cool, would be the delicacy that is Lana Del Rey.
It was to be her first ever foray into staging something on Sydney soil as the newly accepted kid-on-the-street block of indie-pop, and I was more than willing to fawn over this new queen of cool.
I couldn’t wait to hear her balladry delight that is her album ‘Born To Die’, brought into the limelight of live performance.
The Enmore is a superbly antique venue that seemed aptly chosen to compliment Lana’s aesthetic of vintage Americana. During her performance, this ambience of yesteryear was enhanced with her signature style of videography projected on screen behind her. It was the same style of retro imagery that has stepped her onto the ledge of YouTube fame so early in her career. This moody film noir included many shots of Elvis Presley and the Kennedy family, spliced in with snippets of cartoon centaurs from the 1941 psychedelic Disney trip ‘Fantasia’. It all made for quite the surrealist setting, made all the more dream-like by seeing Lana kneel down beneath Elvis’ face. It was a transcendent moment of iconic brilliance, as a lot about Lana reminds me of the original King of Pop, with her demure sense of self.
Upon catching sight of her stage, it revealed a jungle of potted palms, the type of indoor plants you’d find commonplace in a ‘50s club lounge. It created the perfect dark paradise, a sanctuary you’d have thought Lana would immediately embrace, but for the opening number of ‘Blue Jeans’ she seemed more at ease off stage, rather than on. Almost instantly she was throwing herself over the front barricade, feeding her hunger for the crowd’s support proclaiming, “Oh, I’ve been waiting to get here!” It was almost as if she knew of the positive reception she’d get from a Sydney crowd, as she spread her dainty arms over enthusiastic pockets of the crowd like marmalade on toast.
When she was back in the spotlight, her slender frame swayed as if she were the only flora amongst the greenery in the way of a gentle breeze. The vegetation on stage was very much representational of her presence at times, as she was hardly commanding and her hands were often busy, searching for a place to rest in security. Her grand entrance was a languid stroll she took from stage right to centre. The physicality of her performance was void, which made the value of her concert all the more focused on the sound of her voice and the instrumentation. All her songs had their bass-driven productions hollowed out and replaced with the sound of a string quartet she had sitting pretty behind a row of hedges.
Thankfully, there wasn’t any disappointment hearing her songs in a live forum. In particular, her new song ‘Body Electric’ was a show pony moment for her to exhibit her wide, contralto vocal range, which is her ability to sound operatic and girlishly high before slippery dipping down into a lower, jazzier register with ease. ‘Million Dollar Man’ was the song she sung that exaggerated her bluesy croon the most, which made it understandable as to why Lana wouldn’t have chosen a bigger venue, which she surely could’ve filled to capacity, as both her Sydney dates were sold out. Her show only works on an intimate level, and I’m sure, even from where I was in the seats, a great deal of the excellence about her being on stage was blurred trying to reach as far back as me.
During the YouTube famed ‘Video Games’, you could hear the crowd whispering along, politely not singing loud enough so as not to stain the purity of the moment. It was a mellowed out experience, almost meditative in a way, reaching the ending of the song with calmness. Although that type of crowd participation was hardly the same by the time she closed the show with ‘National Anthem’. One of her musicians motioned us to clap in unison, and the young girl seated next to me absolutely wailed the lyrics with passion. The amount of energy emitted from the audience, Lana mirrored, having found her groove until the song was over and she exited in a fashion that was just as unceremonious as her low key entrance. It was hard to tell if she was gone for good, as the performance clocked in under an hour and we’re used to being spoilt with a regular encore number. But despite her devotees’ desperate chanting efforts “Lana! Lana! Lana!” there was no resurrecting this angel, clad in lavender with flowers in her hair of the same colour scheme, back on stage.
As I headed for the exit I listened intently to the crowd, which I always find to be interesting for commentary. A pair of gays sulked that “She didn’t do anything on stage!” and were upset that it was scarce on showmanship. I tuned out hastily from their conversation as soon as I heard a pointless remark comparing her with Lady Gaga. The last person I heard at the theatre doors was succinct, and I’m going to allow his words to conclude my review, “Yeah, it was short… Short but sweet”, which I’d have to agree with.
But personally, I needed to finish off a block of dark chocolate I bought to eat whilst watching the show, just so I could get that extra hit of sweetness that I felt the show was slightly lacking in. Only then was my life “sweet like cinnamon”.