Gig Reviews

Lana Del Rey, Enmore Theatre – 26/07/2012

Abandon all negative misconceptions you may have of Lana Del Rey – this enigmatic songstress is the real deal. Apart from her undeniable beauty, she can sing, perform and connect with flair and conviction, and her spellbinding sold-out show at the Enmore Theatre last night was a testament to that.

Ever since she first graced our computer screens with her pouty lips, fluttering lashes, homemade video montages and breathy vocals, Del Rey has been both worshipped and loathed throughout her meteoric rise to stardom. This being her much-anticipated maiden visit to Australia, curiosity about the fabled singer’s credibility as an artist and performer was sky-high amongst the female-heavy crowd as they eagerly awaited their own chance to ogle and scrutinise Del Rey in the flesh for themselves.

Before the clock struck 10, the American beauty emerged through a faux forest of illuminated local flora, which made up her stage décor, and responded to the deafening wolf whistles and screams that permeated amongst the theatre walls by fondling with her front row fans’ outstretched hands. Wearing a summery pink baby doll dress and her iconic floral crown, Del Rey had the throng of starry-eyed girls – who were also adorned in floral tribute headpieces – swooning at the mere sight of her.

She opened with the ever-so sultry Blue Jeans and descended into the photo pit to serenade her impassioned admirers and make up for the lost time. “Oh it’s so good to see you,” she purred.

Backed by the cherubic sounds of a live mini string orchestra and a piano and guitar combination – with no drums or electronic beats whatsoever – Del Rey delivered a symphonic vocal performance to remember. Her vulnerable yet heavenly falsetto soared over the lush instrumentation in Body Electric and the audience swayed their arms up and down in praise.

Del Rey dished out hit after hit from her debut album Born To Die, each performed in front of a large screen, which projected her signatory montage of Instagram-filtered videos and images of Old Hollywood and the decadent ’50s era, from which the retro pop star’s artistic expression and persona draws heavy influence.

Even though most of her repertoire is drenched with themes of tragedy and sorrow, Del Rey couldn’t help but enjoy herself, often breaking her onstage character and innocent giggling midway through songs such as Summertime Sadness.

Part of the it-girl’s stupefying intrigue is her ability to embody the good girl/bad girl dichotomy flawlessly. During album title track Born To Die, she put a blasphemous spin on her original lyrics, unabashedly singing ‘let me f*ck you hard in the pouring rain’. No one would have expected such language from the all-smiling, all-American darling wearing rosettes in her hair. But it worked a charm.

A highlight of the 50-minute set was undoubtedly Million Dollar Man, which started with a jazzy piano roll and culminated with Del Rey’s climaxing, howling voice and a rapturous reception from the audience. Her vocal prowess is as imposing live as it is on record.

Just when the repetition of her atmospheric, slow-moving sounds start to become a bit droning, Del Rey surprises the amphitheatre with a haunting rendition of Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box. The ruthless fans of Nirvana are usually quick to defend the time-honoured band against outsiders who dare to step into their musical territory, but patrons of this show seemed impressed by Lana Del Rey’s heartwrenching, quivering croons and dignified interpretation of the song. Someone even presented her with a plush koala toy draped in a US flag, which Del Rey proudly cradled back onto the smoke-filled stage with her.

Needless to say, the performance of Del Rey’s breakout opus Video Games roused a mind-blowing applause from the crowd. She made this special moment an eternal one, by extending the raspy, nostalgic vocal performance and putting a choral emphasis on the ‘loving you’ lyric at the very end.

With an Aussie flag draped over her shoulder, the dazzling songbird left the stage after her set-closer National Anthem, which borrowed some awkward guest rapping from the pianist. She did not return for an encore: that would be too clichéd.

Say what you want about Lana Del Rey, but she is no longer the shy singer that shook and stuttered in her heavily criticised Saturday Night Live performance. She has transcended that typecast and evolved into a true performer: one that endearingly connects with their crowd, takes artistic risks, exudes confidence and sings wonderfully. And judging by the crowd’s response, I’d say they have given her the seal of real deal approval, too.

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