Tower is a love club for Lorde

Lorde performed at the Tower Theater on Saturday night for just over an hour.
Lorde performed at the Tower Theater on Saturday night for just over an hour. (MARK METCALFE / Getty Images)
Posted: March 11, 2014

"This song is old," Ella Yelich-O'Connor explained on stage at the Tower Theater Saturday night, by which she meant "Bravado" dates all the way back to 2012. But if the timeline for the 17-year-old, who performs as Lorde, is short, it's also eventful. Her first recording, a free online EP called The Love Club, was released in late 2013; a hotly anticipated album, Pure Heroine, followed in September; last night, on her first U.S. tour, she had the sold-out Tower singing along to her version of the Replacements' "Swingin' Party," recorded before most ticketholders were born.

With a recorded oeuvre totaling just 14 original songs - she augmented it with that 'Mats cover and Son Lux's "Easy," but subtracted The Love Club's title track and "Million Dollar Bills" - Lorde could hold the stage for only little over an hour, wisely forgoing the charade of an encore. (The Pixies' Black Francis recently said the band denied the audience an encore at their last Electric Factory show because they hadn't earned it; perhaps Yelich-O'Connor knows she hasn't, either.)

But while she held the stage, she held it tight, as the center of a sparse but striking tableau that included a white-clad drummer and keyboard player, a dangling chandelier, and a few pieces of floor-to-ceiling set dressing.

To begin, there was only Lorde, in a black halter and white suit that was part Frankenstein's lab, part Stop Making Sense, frozen in a shaft of light. But as the undulating chords of "Glory and Gore" were pierced by drum breaks, her body spasmed into motion, each outburst ending as abruptly as it began. As a songwriter, she doesn't yet have too many tricks up her sleeve, but this one, a mixture of Gothic ambience and tinny high hat that's like a self-aware simulacrum of a dance-club beat, is a good one.

The tension between exploring chart-topping tropes and merely exploiting them is central to "Royals," Lorde's breakthrough hit, a critique of blinged-out materialism that also exploits its chart-topping cachet. When the crowd sang "Everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece/jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash," they weren't ironically enjoying themselves (no points for guessing what they did when she sang, "I'm kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air").

Only once did Lorde seem as young as her 17 years. As she introduced "Ribs," a song about the aftermath of a particularly ruinous party at her parents' house, she mused on the passage from child- to adulthood, and whether one could exist in both worlds at once. "Can I still be a kid?" she asked. That the last word seemed absurd coming out of her mouth seemed to answer the question for her, but then she laid her eyes on the adoring crowd and added, "This is my job. It's so cool that I get to do this." Underneath her preternatural poise, there's still a girl who's delighted to be here - and so, on Saturday, were the people watching her.

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