Lorde's "Melodrama World Tour" arrived in Vancouver Thursday night, an ambitious and confidently executed production that showed the New Zealand pop star embracing performing on the biggest stages of her career thus far.
To the surprise of some Lorde fans in the audience, Run the Jewels were one of the artist's openers of choice. The iconic duo entered the stage to their classic walk-on music, "We Are The Champions," before launching into a packed set that covered all three of their records, El-P and Killer Mike bounded around the stage beneath a giant blowup pistol and fist. Although an arena sound system didn't provide the best venue for their bass-heavy rap, Run the Jewels engaged the audience, which comprised of longtime fans and the totally uninitiated. El-P quipped that some audience members must have been questioning, "Who are these old motherfuckers?" — Killer Mike interjecting that he had meant "handsome" instead. Closing their set with a heartfelt International Women's Day message and a call to support the mental health of those around us from Killer Mike, "Down" concluded the performance — likely gaining new Jewel Runners along the way.
Concertgoers watched the stage transform in preparation for Lorde, her team of instrumentalists and dancers. A transparent room — Lorde's "glass house" — resided within the stage, able to be lifted up, down and hung at angles. Light-up strips ringed the dance floor, while tall panels showed video clips behind the performers. Opening with "Sober," Lorde had the audience in the palm of her hand from her first appearance within the shadows behind her dancers. Her band — the drummer in particular — played with a record level of precision, allowing the singer to work the stage with her signature dance moves and equal parts throaty/breathy vocal style.
As she took the audience through the journey of her career — particularly the recent years that had inspired Melodrama — it became clear how important visuals are to her work. Crisp choreography and illustrative lyrics evoking parties, heartbreak, lust, beautiful landscapes, loneliness: Lorde captures an experience particularly relatable to "kids of the suburbs," to whom she dedicated "400 Lux."
Slipping songs from outside of her core discography into the set provided key highlights: her band's take on Disclosure feature, "Magnets" felt larger than life, complete with it's stylized choreography. A cover of Frank Ocean's "Solo" allowed Lorde's exposed vocal to flex — she possesses a strong range and control over vibrato that this stripped-down section was able to feature. Fans clearly enjoyed her encore performances of "Loveless" and new song, "Precious Metals" — featuring just the artist and her sampler — moments of intimacy within a cinematic production. "Precious Metals" proved to be another standout vocal moment, the singer elongating its refrain of "Do I look like a fool? / 'Cause I must be a fool" to glorious effect. She had her epic arena moment too: confetti showering the floor as she demanded the audience to channel every feeling they needed to during the frantic last chorus of "Green Light."
The Vancouver tour stop was put together in a way that truly satisfied Lorde fans: its small-scale lyrical stories, moments of intimate production, and stripped-down periods of instrumentation juxtaposed with large-scale pop production, universality and a truly enviable stage design. Bravo.
*Editor's note: An earlier version of this review misstated which song was dedicated to kids from the suburbs.