Governors Ball Marked the Official Start of Lorde 2.0
The 20-year-old's Friday night set in New York showcased an artist and a person at a new stage of maturity. And she appreciated everyone coming to her party.
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As the sun tucked down over Randall's Island at the end of the first night of Governors Ball, Lorde introduced "Ribs," a song about getting old. "This next song I wrote when I was 16," she told the New York crowd. The onlookers in their 20s, 30s, and beyond snickered at the notion of a teenager feeling nostalgic. But those in their teens—the good majority of the audience—cheered at having their growing pains validated. Whatever the difference in age, though, the massive sea of people was united seconds later as everyone shouted the great equalizer of a chorus.
"It feels so scary, getting old."
It's easy to forget just how young Lorde is, given her wise-beyond-her-years approach to songwriting. But the New Zealand singer's already long list of accomplishments—including two Grammys, a triple-platinum album, and a massive and devoted following—are enough to make just about anyone feel ancient by comparison. Even other notably young pop stars have time on her. At 20, she's three years younger than Harry Styles and Justin Bieber, four years younger than Miley Cyrus, and seven years younger than Taylor Swift. Yet, of all of her peers, Lorde is the most aware of the passing of time.
Growing up was a pervasive theme on her blockbuster debut album, Pure Heroine, and one she tackled from the perspective of her teenage self, trying to fit in as an outsider and navigate her place in the world. But as she worked a few songs from her forthcoming record, Melodrama, into her set last night, an album which she described to the audience as being about "all the insanity of your 20s," it was clear that Lorde is ready to enter the next phase of maturity as an artist and a person. It was the updated version of herself that she debuted at Coachella in April and is now off and running with.
Taking the stage wearing a sheer black outfit with a white veil and hands covered in glitter, she made deliberate, confident strides across the stage, purposefully showing off that she would be leaving much of her shy, awkward teenage mannerisms behind her. And while she fully thrust herself into her much-memed full-body dance-gasm, in which she looks like she's not moving to the beat but the entire scope of the song at once, she was able to bring a newfound poise to it, making it clear that she has no interest in conforming to how anyone thinks she should dance, so everyone else had better get used to the way she already does.
Her stage plot has evolved with her as well, featuring a giant glass fishtank-like box on moving mechanical risers, which dancers (and sometimes Lorde herself) got in and performed interpretive background moves, which didn't go over well from all angles of the festival given the glare of the setting sun. It was a decided progression from the minimal but powerful approach she took three years ago, where it was just her on a blank stage save for her drummer and keyboard player.
Midway through her set, while sharing a piano bench with her friend Jack Antonoff, whose band Bleachers performed earlier in the day, she offered the crowd some free life advice as he began the intro to "Liability," a ballad the two wrote together this year: "You have to learn to be your own best friend, because everyone's gonna leave you at some point." It's sad but true, she said, belying that she had been through some experiences that brought her perspective during her absence between albums.
A few of Lorde's Pure Heroine teen angst classics were cut to make room for her new, more mature Melodrama songs over her 60-minute set. "Liability" and her first public performance of "Perfect Places," a single released the previous morning, edged out some tracks from her slim catalog. "White Teeth Teens," "Still Sane," and "Glory and Gore" sadly felt the axe. But while she gutted the back half of Pure Heroine from the setlist, she made up for it with a crowd-pleasing cover of Robyn's "Hang with Me."
Even "Royals," the breakout hit song about being an unglamorous but ambitious teen that made her a star five years ago, seemed like old news in the face of Lorde Phase Two, and her fans were happy to follow her down the path of what's to come. The loudest reaction of the night came for closer "Green Light," her recent hit single that feels like a loud bash of raw emotions. At the start of the song, Lorde encouraged everyone present to use the next few minutes to shake out their bad vibes. Give everything they've got to her, she told them. By the end, green fireworks shot into the air behind the stage, illuminating the night sky on first truly beautiful day in New York after a long and brutal winter. Everyone felt exorcised and ageless.
"Thank you for coming to my party," she said at one point. "I appreciate it." Because even though there were over a dozen other performers throughout the day and thousands in attendance, it was Lorde's party. The day belonged to her—the new her.
Dan Ozzi is shook out his bad vibes. Follow him on Twitter fam.