Lorde, Roundhouse, review: a sunshiny performance from a bona fide star

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Lorde - John Shearer/Getty
Lorde - John Shearer/Getty

“You’re all gonna watch me disappear into the sun,” sang Lorde at the end of her 2017 album Melodrama. And on a spectacularly designed stage lit by a giant, glowing disc, the New Zealand singer-songwriter did exactly that. She also climbed above it and stood silhouetted in front of it.

For a musician of such star quality, the imagery could not have been more apposite. Lorde, real name Ella Yelich O’Connor, changed the pop landscape forever when, aged just 16, she released her debut single Royals in 2013, one of the best-selling songs of the century. On that, her subsequent triple-platinum album Pure Heroine, and the aforementioned Melodrama, she captured the reality of young adulthood via a distinctive, gravelly voice, razor-sharp lyrics, luxe synth and moody syncopated beats. Her music “felt like listening to tomorrow”, as David Bowie put it.

Then came last year’s Solar Power, a soft, sun-drenched album that divided the critics. With their airy, strummed contentment, the first two singles - the title track and Stoned At The Nail Salon -  felt bewilderingly different to her previous material.

But none of that perceived dissonance was present during Wednesday’s show, the first of three nights at London’s Roundhouse. Whether skipping across the stage like a true pop queen, or sitting down, spilling her guts, Lorde held the room captive with utmost composure.

She’s an arena-sized star who suits smaller venues like the Roundhouse, and the new songs delighted the crowd as much as the old hits. In fact, there was a throughline that some listeners perhaps failed to appreciate at the time of Solar Power’s release.

The interiority of Secrets From A Girl (Who’s Seen It All), about the realities of fame, for example, teamed well with the songs she penned as a teenager, like Ribs and Liability, which pondered the possibilities of a future life in the limelight, while Solar Power tracks Dominoes and Mood Ring reminded the crowd that Lorde did not totally abandon her characteristic self-awareness and satire on that LP.

Meanwhile, the back-to-back bangers of the show’s final third, taken largely from Melodrama — Sober, Supercut, Perfect Places, and the euphoric Green Light — turned the gig into a hedonistic summer party, one that felt more momentous even than her encore performance of Royals. Every one of her albums conjures up its own heady state, and the combination proved intoxicating.

The set also played its part. From a round, rotating stage, populated by a highly choreographed band in flared suits, rose a slanted staircase like the arm of a sundial, in front of the blazing, circular backdrop. In fact, the flares and the staircase recalled Kate Bush’s 1979 Tour of Life, which seemed particularly apt in a week where Running Up That Hill ran back up the charts after featuring in the new series of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things.

“It’s so good to be back,” Lorde said more than once during the evening. You really believed her. Clearly rejuvenated by all that sunshine in her hometown of Auckland, she admitted she felt the best she’s ever felt on tour. “I thought I was the kind of person who needed to swim in the ocean every day to feel good,” she remarked, hinting that she was finding the jubilant mood in the Roundhouse just as fulfilling.

It was a transcendental return.

Until tonight, then June 28 at Alexandra Palace, London N22. Tickets: lorde.co.nz/tour

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