Lana Del Rey attracts such polarised opinion that I was determined to see her live so that I could make up my own mind. It
started so auspiciously for her: the single Video Games became a viral Internet
hit in 2011, rightly gaining an Ivor Novello award for its wonderfully dark
melody. Yet, the turning point was a disastrously inept performance of this song
on Saturday Night Live in January 2012. By this time, the truth about Lizzie
Grant’s reinvention as Lana Del Rey, and her privileged background had emerged,
and critical opinion became viciously scathing. Yet, this did nothing to
prevent her album Born To Die being the fifth most popular last year, and neither did failing
to live up to the promise of the early singles, or presence of mundane fillers. Yet
the speculation about the veracity of her looks and cosmetic surgery has acted as a
distraction from the key question of her artistic ability: this was what I set
out to discover in Manchester.
minutes (prompting the announcement of a second date), fans had been queuing
for hours, and the touts were out in force. She was greeted like royalty: the last
time I saw anything like this rapturous a reception from the audience was for TheWeeknd. Extended interludes whilst she signed autographs and received flowers were incorporated into the act: there was none of Abel Tesfaye’s modesty. It was a night I will remember for a long time to come, and one which defies attempts at rationalisation. Not having had a desire to watch TV talent
shows, I haven’t witnessed a performance so inept before. That such an embarrassing calamity came not from
an obscure support act in a small venue, but from a supposedly world class
artist was almost as perplexing as the excitement from the audience.
far from unattractive, at its best in the sadder numbers such a Born to Die. Admittedly
songs such as National Anthem and Off to The Races were weaker, where retro pop and jazz blended into hip hop. The sole cover, of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet was bland. More of an issue was the vocals:
her smoky contralto voice sounded alarmingly off key at times, and she
struggled to replicate her studio poise. Yet this paled into insignificance
compared to the woeful lack of stagecraft. The Guardian described her Glasgow date as a remarkably
controlled performance, yet in reality it was languid: she literally just stood
there and sung. There were choreographed moments, when she approached the
audience at the front rail, but this couldn’t disguise a lack of any visible response to the music.
enormous gold lions, the lighting was elaborate, and the backing band lavishly
included a string quartet. Yet, the band never really looked or sounded as though their
heart was really in it: they were going through the motions. The video imagery and Art Deco set were clearly intended to give a cinematic atmosphere, culminating in the performance of Young and Beautiful from The Great Gatsby soundtrack, the only new song in a set heavily reliant upon extras from her Paradise Edition. There was an absence of passion and a surfeit of superficiality from the stage; but the audience’s excitement was real. I stopped taking videos at gigs some time ago, but made an exception for this gig, my ability to describe the truly catastrophic nature of this performance exceeds my reservoir of adjectives.