It has only been nine months since Lorde debuted in London, and since then her success has skyrocketed at such a rate that it’s hard to believe she must have only been sixteen when she first graced our shores. Fast forward through the Grammy wins, enormous festivals performances, endless touring, and we arrive at one of two sold out shows in the capital, the second of which is at London’s Brixton Academy – a far cry from the two hundred capacity Madame Jojo’s where she made her London debut last year.
Opening for her is the scruffy indie-electro Lo-Fang, fronted by classically trained musician Matthew Hemerlein. He plays through a set which consists of docile beats and heady synth all backed up by an impressive display of both violin and guitar. His tousled good looks and deliberately breathy vocals make for something that desperately wants to be deep and emotive, but can come off fairly wishy-washy. That’s not to say he isn’t clearly very talented.
Lorde graces the stage awash with shadow for Glory and Gore; an husky anthem for the turbulent anxieties of young adulthood. Alone on the stage, and dressed in a conservative loose fitting black tuxedo, she lurches and flails to her own beat; a completely un-choreographed routine which is both awkward and compelling, but also reminiscent of any teenage girl dancing alone in her bedroom. As the ominous and repetitive refrain of Biting Down reverberates around the venue, the backdrop falls away to reveal her two man band. It’s a simple set up, reflecting upon Lorde’s effortlessly minimalist nature, with emphasis on movement and lyrics, leaving the band as little more than elaborate scenery.
Tennis Court’s melancholic chorus offers the first of many ferocious sing a-longs, but the pace remains relatively stable throughout minor album tracks Still Sane and the dreamy White Teeth Teens. Like much of Pure Heroine, Lorde’s music deals with themes of alienation and fear, endlessly referencing small towns and gangly, crater faced youths. For more invested fans, it’s a delight to hear the slightly older, gospel-esque Love Club EP track Bravado. However, there is a fear here that some of the lesser known material might be lost on the majority of a sold out crowd, which can be the curse of having a song do as well as Royals has. A vibrant performance of Son Lux’s Easy pulls it right back; a blazingly erratic one-off which pounds the life back into the room.
“Brixton, this is pretty cool“ pipes Lorde as she looks out over the sea of faces of the academy; it’s what you would imagine any seventeen year old might say if given the opportunity. Her connection with the audience is solidified in a short prelude to Ribs, wide eyed she addresses the crowd as a friend, a confident, a mass of like-minded people. After ejecting all photographers to the balcony in an attempt to be closer to her audience, it’s an honest and open address, expressing a state of mind well beyond her years. It’s hard to imagine how she has been able to tap into so much raw human experience in her short years as an average New Zealand preteen.
The steady hum and wub-wub of Royals is performed innocuously in comparison to ultimate fan favourite Team, which see’s both an outfit change (golden billowy dressing gown, always good) and closing in an explosion of confetti. She edges around the stage, hair flying for one final chorus which brings the house down, before quietly closing on A World Alone, leaving the stage with as few bells and whistles as she arrived. The seventy-five minute performance is slick, but intense. I can only imagine the kind of whirlwind this kind of success must bring, but she looks and sounds as comfortable on stage as artists twice her age; eyes shut and dancing to her own rhythm, exactly where she is meant to be.