Live Review: Lana Del Rey – Liverpool

Lana Del Rey

Echo Arena, Liverpool, September 2017

Words: Gary Lambert

I cannot abide the term “guilty pleasures” as it suggests that there is something wrong with enjoyment. But for a self-confessed music snob who proudly lambasts members of indie bands for falling in love with stage school types, a gig by Lana Del Rey in a soulless arena should see me outside of the venue with a DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING placard whilst loudly playing a band so cutting edge they haven’t even been formed yet. Instead, I’m feeling giddy and slightly tired because I love Lana Del Rey. Not in an unhealthy fashion I hasten to add, but in the same way that I love Freak, The Amazons, and Paula & Karol. Pure, from the first moment I heard, lightning bolt love like Michael Corleone seeing Apollonia for the first time – but in aural rather than romantic format.

 

I was not the only one to be excited by the Californian. Looking around at her fans it was obvious that a concert by Lana Del Rey is a very big deal indeed. There aren’t the limousines of teenagers and wannabe-wag divorcees you would expect for a gig by say Rihanna or Beyoncé, nor are there the sensible crossover audience that would be pulled in for Adele. Instead, with the exception of myself having come straight from work, everybody seemed to have made an effort to add some glamour to themselves to tie in with the songstress. I also came to the conclusion after walking to the merchandise stand that Lana Del Rey fans wear the greatest collection of perfumes on earth. A 30 second stroll seemed to fire into my mind a lifetime of memories of walking through the perfume section of John Lewis.

 

I was just glad upon reaching the merchandise desk that the selection was seriously underwhelming as gorgeous perfume makes my mind get diverted, and sometimes I end up with three pairs of shoes from Dr Martens instead of a pair of black laces. It really did seem though that imagination does out of an artist’s merchandise selection though when you don’t need to sell in order to pay for your breakfast tomorrow morning and the petrol to your next gig. Seriously Lana (she reads Popped Music daily I promise – GL), I was hoping that there would be some sort of cool poster to become the prized possession in my Screen Prints and Posters folio.

 

There was a strange atmosphere in the venue by the time I took to my seat, roughly 40 minutes before Del Rey was due on stage. The floor was packed, but with no support act, DJ, or even loud music playing, entertainment came from conversation. Kind of how chucking out time at an alcohol-free night club would be, I guess. The ground were desperate for something to cheer too going on the size of the roar that greeted the roadie who placed the mic stand, admittedly prettily decorated with a vine twisted around it like a beanstalk helter skelter. For the price of the tickets and the fairly limited set design, I would have expected some fans to feel a bit short changed. And probably very bored as it was past 9pm when the heroine of those fans took to the stage some two and a half hours after the doors had opened.

 

The boredom stopped though as soon as the lights went down, and the neon “Del Rey” sign at the back of the stage started to glisten. Body Electric was the opening track and it made the atmosphere in the room feel electric. In fact, basically any song chosen by Lana Del Rey had that effect due to the way her voice seems to melt away the guards you put up against society and leaves you as a skeleton of emotion.

 

In fact, Lana Del Rey’s voice sounds so enormous yet fragile that it makes you wish that you could reach on to the stage and let her feel protected from the world. But the juxtaposition is that this is a world famous, supremely talented artist, and there would be no way to get where she has without being able to crystalise into a diamond coating to deflect the words of critics into the ether. Maybe she is more actor than singer? Who knows! It generates real feelings between the audience and the singer rather than just the audience and the hit songs.

 

I knew the gig was going to make me suffer whenever we reached Born To Die. This is a song that I cannot listen to under normal circumstances as every time I hear “feet don’t fail me now, take me to the finish line” I’m transported to a series of dark February nights, walking through the grounds of Aintree University Hospital to visit my dying grandmother. And the suffering was real, I cried my eyes out through the song as I tried to get the words to take one a new memory. More than any other time during the evening, I realised that if it wasn’t for a bit of well-earned-and-calculated luck with Video Games going viral back in the first part of the decade, I would be watching Lana Del Rey in intimate venues and feeling exactly the same. Except she would not be considering a pop singer, but rather one of the truly great talents of our generation.

 

The closer for the night, Off To The Races, was the one real chance for the audience to utilise their dancing shoes, and Ms Del Rey too. It was a great to see a pop singer throwing some shapes in an imperfect fashion as though she was dancing because the music made her dance rather than because the stage show required it. As the song reached its funky climax, Lana visited the fans at the front and then walked off leaving the band to sweat their instruments hard. It was slightly bizarre and beautifully cumbersome for a gig that has been designed to show off the voice of the soloist to finish with a drop of confusion as people waited for the big goodbye. It showed that Lana Del Rey does not perform to show off Lana Del Rey, but to show off her voice and her songs. And I think the band loved being centre stage too.

 

So the band loves her, the crowd loves her, and this reviewer still loves her. My only hope is that Lana Del Rey loves herself too.

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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