It’s human nature to take moments for granted as they happen.
A sunrise, a first kiss, a walk in the rain — these things come and fade away, shifting from lived to remembered with astonishing quickness.
What separates Lorde’s brand of sinuous, stormy and sophisticated pop music from her peers' is the 21-year-old’s willingness to revel in humanity’s effervescent existence.
By seizing upon the micro — a breakup, a night out or an afternoon of crushing suburban boredom — the woman born Ella Yelich O’Connor speaks to the macro, provoking the sort of giddy, unified response glimpsed inside the American Airlines Center on Sunday night.
The performance, part of the New Zealand native’s Melodrama World Tour, was her first DFW appearance since a 2014 turn at South Side Ballroom.
Over roughly 90 minutes, Lorde performed all of her acclaimed sophomore album, Melodrama, as well as a substantial amount of her 2013 debut, Pure Heroine, and a smattering of other material, including “Solo,” a soulful Frank Ocean cover.
The evening had an inauspicious beginning. As she began “Homemade Dynamite,” the night’s second song, something was off, and Lorde stopped the show.
“I wanna give you the best show I can, and there’s some weird shit with the lights,” she explained before disappearing for a few minutes.
She re-emerged, and rather than pick up where she left off, the Grammy winner began her concert again, leading to delighted cheers rippling through the full arena. (It wasn't sold out — several large chunks of the AAC’s uppermost decks were curtained off Sunday).
It was the sort of hiccup that might derail some artists in such a high-profile setting, but after the 2018 Lorde has weathered thus far — the rigid misogyny she encountered at the 60th annual Grammys; the tabloids rooting around in her love life, eagerly trying to link her to her collaborator Jack Antonoff — some missed lighting cues probably seemed like no big deal.
“Thank you so much for bearing with us at the top of the show,” Lorde said as she finished “Homemade Dynamite.” “I just want it to be perfect for you.”
The erratic lights were the first and last misstep Lorde endured Sunday. She delivered a polished, confident and emotionally charged set. Six dancers and three band members, all of whom spent most of their time onstage shrouded in darkness, backed the pop star.
The stage was a carefully considered blend of bombast and subtlety, with what appeared to be a translucent shipping container often suspended above the action, filled with dancers bending themselves in aerobic ways. (Applause goes to the stage crew, working in a space that played host to March Madness less than 24 hours earlier.)
The lights above, behind and in front of the stage strobed, pulsed and flickered, with the odd punctuation of star-shaped confetti blanketing the roaring audience, as happened at the climax of “Green Light,” one of several tracks eliciting a visceral response. That intense emotion is something engendered by the singer-songwriter, whose singular voice is a special effect unto itself — it bends and soars, giving lift to songs full of weighty observations: “I am your sweetheart psychopathic crush/Drink up your movements, still I can’t get enough,” went one pungent line from “The Louvre.”
Throughout the night, Lorde and the dancers arrayed behind her, their numbers expanding and contracting as needed, deftly surfed the waves of feeling emanating from the vividly rendered songs, including “Yellow Flicker Beat,” her contribution to the Hunger Games soundtrack, and hit singles “Royals” and “Green Light.”
The unequivocal highlight, however, was her rendition of “Writer in the Dark,” a tune, Lorde acknowledged, that cut a bit too close to the bone. Before singing “Dark,” Lorde embarked upon something of an extended monologue, peeling back pop-star artifice to reveal something remarkably raw and relatable.
“I’ve never made something before where I see myself so clearly,” she said. “It’s scary singing these songs every night because I see myself so clearly. … This song was too clear … it’s terrifying and amazing all at the same time.”
Lorde’s vulnerability was disarming, but it also galvanized the moment — “I know now not to apologize for being a fucking writer,” she declared; “I know who I am” — making “Writer in the Dark” the night’s emotional apex.
The American Airlines Center teemed with glowing cellphones, the 21st century indicator an audience is in lockstep with a performer. It was, as was so much else of the night, an indelible moment, one that gave way to the moments after it. What was lived had begun to shift to remembered, but not before the distinct sensation of gratitude — for Lorde, and her rigorous dedication to mining the moments too often taken for granted — took hold.
That appreciation was also stoked by one of the night’s openers, rap duo Run the Jewels.
As incongruous as it might seem on paper — Killer Mike and El-P delivering the thunderous, gritty tracks for which they are celebrated to an audience eager for some Top 40 pop — the pairing worked, not least because the two men, underneath an enormous, 3-D version of their fist-and-gun logo, fully understood the situation.
“Parents, if you thought you were going to come here for a PG night, we formally apologize,” El-P said. “We curse like sailors — dirty, dirty sailors.”
On that point, RTJ, making its first DFW appearance since anchoring last year’s inaugural Fortress Festival in Fort Worth, did not disappoint, flinging F-bombs with abandon and leaning into crunchy, skull-rattling cuts like “Blockbuster Night Part 1,” “Stay Gold” and “Thursday in the Danger Room.”
The cumulative effect was pleasantly transgressive — two foul-mouthed but big-hearted rappers, perhaps affecting some hearts and minds while shaking some asses — in a way too few arena concerts can be anymore.
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