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Concert Reviews:
Lorde's Little Caesars show isn't quite a "Royals" flush

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2018

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DETROIT -- Lorde’s concert on Wednesday night, March 28, at Little Caesar’s Arena had little of the “Melodrama” that gave her latest album and the tour its name.

That was refreshing. But also frustrating.

The 21-year-old New Zealand singer -- now of age to enjoy the “couple cases” of Blue Moon beer she spoke about being introduced to during her second visit to Detroit -- is still on an ascent into arena-headlining pop divahood. The vast number of empty or curtained-off seats at Little Caesar’s indicated she’s not quite there yet, commercially, while the conceptually ambitious 21-song, 100-minute show, which stalled out just past its halfway point, showed that Lorde (real name Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor) is still riding a learning curve.

There were plenty of good ideas at work on Wednesday, though the stark staging of Lorde’s show would have been far more impactful in a smaller venue. The show was designed for less to be more, using open spaces where many of Lorde’s contemporaries have gone for bombast and spectacle. Accompanied by six dancers who performed in various configurations, Lorde navigated the fluid early part of the night with easy confidence, singing within and alongside the choreography during songs such as “Sober,” “Tennis Court,” a rendition of Disclosure’s “Magnets,” “Buzzcut Season,” “400 Lux” and “Yellow Flicker Beat” from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1” soundtrack, even held aloft by the dancers during “The Louvre.”

Five rear-stage video panels accompanied the performances with images and projections, while the show’s main visual foil was a transparent, rectangular “cage” that raised above the stage with dancers inside -- and also provided a provocative changing room for Lorde to slip into the second of three outfits she sported during the show at the end of “Ribs.”

But things stalled when Lorde reached a segment during which she perched on a riser and sang three songs -- “Writer in the Dark,” Frank Ocean’s “Solo” and “Liability” -- accompanied only by piano. She was chatty and convincingly sincere, but the extended period of quiet detracted more than it added and Lorde never regained momentum after that. The likes of “Sober II (Melodrama),” “Supercut,” “Royals” and “Perfect Places” never quite achieved liftoff, while the three-song encore, with Lorde playing a touchpad sampler, felt flat and missed the kind of “Homemade Dynamite” she sang about earlier in the night.

Only the “Melodrama” single “Green Light,” which closed the main set, packed the punch it should, a buoyant and slightly extended performance accented by, of course, a confetti shower from both sides of the Little Caesars floor.

There’s no doubt Lorde will be back in arena spaces in the future -- and probably often. She’s garnered plenty of creative cred in her still-young career, so while Wednesday’s booking may have felt premature, we can safely bet that by the next time we see her Lorde will have applied some lessons from this run.

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