Finally. Make that FINALLY.
New Zealand pop sensation Lorde, who made a big splash in 2013 with the Grammy-winning “Royals,” finally made her overdue Twin Cities debut on Friday at Xcel Energy Center.
On her 2013-14 tour, Lorde performed 64 concerts in North America. She returned to New York and Los Angeles four times each. But she never made it to the Twin Cities once. Not once.
Oh, she knows all about us, as she explained Friday. The 21-year-old gushed about being in Prince’s state and how grateful she was to exist in his lifetime. She’s revered him forever, calling him the “very best there is.”
She even told a story about sitting next to him once at the Golden Globe Awards and, while no one talked to him, he did say hello to her on his way to the stage to present an award.
After relating this anecdote of her encounter with His Royal Badness, Lorde, accompanied by a pianist hidden in the darkness at the back of the stage, began singing Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U.” It was just a few lines, but it was so heartfelt, so real, so different from the rest of Lorde’s performance.
Her 100-minute show was more artful than arena-friendly, so electro-pop smooth complete with recorded backup vocals. Backed by three unseen musicians, Lorde relied on six dancers and their interpretive artistry to provide the show. Yes, she participated but it was more exaggerated movements in her exaggerated extra-baggie pants (or full skirt) than dancing. She even was held aloft a couple of times by the dancers while she was singing.
But the dancers worked mostly physically independent of her, though their moves clearly complemented the music. The key visual element on this largely barren stage was a huge translucent box. It became a venue for the dancers. Sometimes three danced inside while three danced outside mirroring their movements. Lorde even entered the box to change clothes right in front of the 9,000 fans.
OK, it was in dim lighting. Her fans are accustomed to Lorde baring her soul in darkness. That’s what the music on her two albums has been about, exposing her vulnerability and resilience.
Like Prince and Taylor Swift, Lorde is a visionary pop star. Her vision is more confined to the songwriting and recording aspects, as she sets her remarkable poetry to minimalist electro-pop. It’s literate lyrics that deserve comparisons to Joni Mitchell’s. And coupled with synth-driven, percussive sounds, Lorde’s music stands out, though it’s not consistently radio-friendly.
Because of the intimate, introspective music and her introverted personality, Lorde didn’t always translate effectively in an arena. Bombast and nuance don’t necessarily complement each other, and there’s a sameness to her sounds in a big room.
However, when she sat down on the edge of the stage and made it feel like a living room performance, it was as magical as listening to one of her recordings in your bedroom. Maybe more so. She seemed so in the moment.
After her Prince tribute, she segued into her own personal anthem, “Writer in the Dark” from last year’s “Melodrama” album. As she sang into the microphone in her right hand, she conducted the pianist with her left hand as the fans lit up their cellphones.
Then she called out opening act Tove Styrke, 25, a Swedish pop singer who was on her last night on the tour. Together, they sat on the stage singing Swedish dance-pop star Robyn’s “Hang With Me.” This piano ballad was so spontaneous, so giddily emotional and so full of genuinely loving hugs between the two singers.
The quiet set wasn’t over. Lorde offered her song about being alone called “Liability,” seeming on the verge of tears. In moments like that, it’s easy to see why Lorde is so loved.
Oddly, Styrke had also performed “Liability” during her opening set. The other openers, rappers Run the Jewels, also seemed like an odd choice. But the high-energy duo injected some serious moments, for a change, about self-love and women becoming president. Or royals.