With the heavy scent of perfume and other aromatics filling the room, the expectant crowd had grown to fever pitch to see the latest it-girl weave her magic. Rarely has a performer experienced such strong criticism so early in their careers, and despite that performance on Saturday Night Live, critics have been slowly warming to the young songstress. Still being sceptical of her talents, I had braced myself for a performance that critics would attack like hyenas on a struggling baby zebra, but also allowed myself to be immersed in the performance.
With the stage adorned with a mini rainforest of ferns and other local flora, the chants of Lana! Lana! Lana! grew louder and louder as the hour-long gap between Oliver Tank’s and Lana Del Rey’s set saw the young and largely female crowd escalate in impatience. But as the string quartet took their positions on the left of the stage and the lights dimmed, her adoring audience let out an almighty cheer. As Miss Del Rey entered the stage, the crowd welcomed her with a sea of camera phones and high pitched squeals, as the introductory strings tuned into Blue Jeans, with Lana seductively prowling across the front of the stage on all fours. Any fears of vocal quality were quickly snuffed out as her operatic quality high notes as well as her sultry low notes were hit with clarity and purpose.
Whilst appearing slightly nervous and vulnerable on stage, the quality of her vocal range was intensified by the less-is-more approach to the instrumentation use. With only the string section, guitar and keyboards used as company, there was nowhere for stray notes and poor pitch to hide. Fortunately, there were no faults in her performance to hide, as her hauntingly beautiful voice sparkled with the freedom that her choice of on-stage instruments allowed. The introductory strings to Born to Die drew rapturous cheers, as once again, like clockwork, camera phones lit up as the audience clambered to take home their own footage of the show, but forgot to involve themselves in the performance that was in front of them.
The latter half of the album Born to Die got plenty of exposure, perhaps due to the fact that these songs saw her vocals accentuated with the limited on-stage noise, while the more upbeat numbers were largely ignored. Summertime Sadness saw Del Rey bathed in soft purple light, as she delicately worked the stage in her light green dress and matching headband, while she performed an impromptu a Capella performance of Happy Birthday Mr President, which was playfully performed as she battered her eyelids to the mesmerised audience. The highlight of the set saw Del Rey’s voice soar with effortless ease during Million Dollar Man, as falsetto notes were hit without a hint of breaking.
“I love you Lana!” one excited gent up the front yelled out, as Del Rey instantly purred back “I love you baby”, before Carmen was introduced. As Video Games chimed in, another appreciative cheer rang out as Del Rey performed while short films and home movies played out in the background. The most upbeat song was left to the finale, with National Anthem performed with Byron Thomas on keyboards performing the co-vocal duties with Del Rey, which worked a real treat. This was followed by a downplayed exit as Del Rey left the stage while the rest of the band performed a jazzed up outro, leaving the audience truly satisfied.
Despite chants for an encore, there was no return to the stage for Lana, nor was one required. Everything that needed to be said was done so, and anything that was to be proved was done so with poise and conviction. Having this reviewer duly converted, it’s clear that Del Rey has largely ignored the criticism, come to terms with her limitations, and grown in confidence as a performer. While she will continue to work on her stage presence, which at times appears nervous, her vocals are the real jewel in her crown. Having sold out two shows at the Palace, it’s clear that much of Melbourne have been converted long before I was. Splendid.