Review by Tom Frodsham
You’d have to be pretty unaware of pop culture to not realise the impact Lana Del Rey has had on music in the past 18 months. Her’s is the kind of music you either love or hate. Some people can’t stand the melancholy in her voice for more than five minutes, but others become absorbed into her emotive lyrics and dream like musical quality.
Americana, Hollywood Idols, fallen dreams, sex, and idealistic love are the trademark themes in her cinematic inspired music. The Apollo was sold out. I was sat on the Upper Tier waiting in anticipation for Del Rey to come on, wondering whether she’ll surpass the hype or be all style and no substance. Support Act Billy Lockett got the crowd warmed up, especially with the last song of his set – a cover of The Lumineers ‘Ho Hey’.
When Lana finally came on she got the giggles when singing opening number ‘Cola (Pussy)’. Maybe it was singing those lyrics to a crowd or the nerves, who knows? But I get the feeling she isn’t quite at ease when performing in front of an adoring crowd just yet. She was a bit stiff when addressing the crowd and only really spoke to the dedicated front row fans. They were the ‘Lucky Ones’ as after the opening track Lana went down to her fans and had pictures taken with (what felt like) every single one of them. ‘Body Electric’, ‘Blue Jeans’ and an outstanding performance of ‘Born to Die’ followed. Even with no backing singers Del Rey’s tone kept us captivated. The stage was set out like an old dressing room from the twenties, Art Deco inspired lamps, mirror panels, and a touch of wildlife in the lioness statues – inspired possibly from her participation in the ‘The Great Gatsby’ soundtrack?
I was sceptical to see whether Lana could carry a show for a whole gig. However, her live band and orchestra of violinists brought life to each of the tracks she performed. It was literally exquisite. No other word describes it better. She has an unusual haunting quality in her voice. In an odd way it reminds me of Karen Carpenter’s rich, silky tone. It’s a perfect recording voice that I thought maybe it wouldn’t translate as well in a live concert; just watch THAT infamous SNL performance – which subsequently forced her management to cancel an upcoming tour at the time. Time has helped us forget and now her vocal power has strengthened. The only thing missing sometimes was a bit more life visually on stage to support the cinematic theme to the set, maybe when Del Rey has the power to fill out an arena tour we’ll find that concept realised?
A quick break for Del Rey, then she beautifully performed lead single from the Paradise EP ‘Ride’. Quite a hard song to sing but Del Rey managed to carry the soothing melody with her voice. ‘Young and Beautiful’, her latest single and track from ‘The Great Gatsby’ soundtrack was a standout performance, currently in the charts and being her biggest hit in her native States to date. Other notable tracks ‘Carmen’, ‘Burning Desire’ and penultimate track of the night (and debut single) ‘Video Games’ followed. I’d been hoping all night she’d perform my favourite track ‘American’ so when she announced she was performing one last track ‘National Anthem’ I presumed that she’d perform it for the encore? Well, there wasn’t one. After performing the last track, Del Rey mingled with the front row one last time, taking pictures and signing autographs. We waited, and waited, and waited for what felt like an hour (but was actually twenty minutes) for Del Rey to do an encore but she simply picked up her flowers and fan gifts, blew us a kiss and ran off!
I felt cheated; it was like we’d just seen an opening act not the main attraction. She was performing altogether for barely an hour. By the time she left so had half the Upper Tier audience tired of waiting for more. In an intimate venue like the Apollo, I think you have the capacity to be just as attentive with all your fans. You find many artists tend to acknowledge the whole of the venue audience for coming to see them but Sadly Lana didn’t address the full audience, only that front row.
So as always with Lana, she gets mixed reviews from this critic. Maybe it was a trick to leave us wanting more; it’s the oldest trick in the book after all. Regardless, it worked. Del Rey has the kind of mysticism and enigma about her that you kind of half expect to be left in awe of her presence. Isn’t that what ‘Star Quality’ is all about?