Lorde / Run the Jewels / Mitski Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON, March 29

Lorde / Run the Jewels / Mitski Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON, March 29
Photo: Stephen McGill
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It takes a large personality to fill an arena with just one body, one voice and a sampler on stage, but by the time Lorde emerged for the encore at the Toronto stop on her "Melodrama World Tour," the audience didn't need anything else.
 
Starting off the evening, Mitski delivered a Bury Me at Makeout Creek-heavy set, showcasing her penchant for crafting melancholic songs that start slow, but always build to an explosion of catharsis. She charged through catalogue highlights like "Townie," "Your Best American Girl" and "Drunk Walk Home" flawlessly, though it was fittingly tragic that her set rang through a largely empty arena.
 
Run the Jewels followed, presenting themselves as equal parts rap duo, comedy tag-team and motivational speakers. Despite Killer Mike and El-P publicly voicing conflicting opinions in the U.S. gun control debate earlier this week, the pair remained totally in sync as they spat out RTJ3 cuts like "Legend Has It," "Call Ticketron" and "Stay Gold," and shared positive messages about feminism and suicide prevention.
 
The chaperones in the crowd had barely had time to recover from RTJ's colourful vocabulary when the lights dimmed to signal the night's main event.
 
We heard her before we saw her; Lorde's voice and blue light washed over the crowd as white-clad dancers moved to the music of "Sober" onstage. It wasn't until midway through the second verse that the 21-year-old New Zealand singer became visible, bursting out of the darkness in a sheer black jumpsuit to thunderous applause.
 
The dancers rotated on and off the stage in different configurations throughout the night, switching from solos to group numbers, and even moving their dance floor to a massive suspended glass box by the end of the show. But despite their theatrics, it was Lorde herself who commanded attention.
 
Whether delivering party anthems ("Homemade Dynamite"), dedicating tracks to the suburban kids ("400 Lux"), delving into the final moments of a failed relationship ("Hard Feelings") or repping Toronto with a never-before-performed cover of Drake's "Shot for Me," Lorde's vocal chops were rivalled only by her charm.
 
She admitted and embraced her alienating qualities ("Liability") and rebellion ("Perfect Places") with an authenticity that obviously resonated with the thousands of mostly young female fans at the Air Canada Centre.
 
Lorde seems to have managed to carve out a spot for herself as one of the world's biggest pop stars without compromising to conform to pop star norms. In a heartfelt speech to the crowd, she shared her own recent epiphany — that trying to be cool is, well, not cool. After thanking fans for accepting her as she is ("in my fucking marshmallow dress and sitting in a pile of lights"), she declared: "You just have to fucking be yourself."
 
Sure, at this point she probably benefits from the luxuries earned by her success, but she doesn't pander to or patronize her crowd. Unafraid to drop f-bombs or speak out against social injustices, she distinguishes herself from some of her cookie-cutter contemporaries.
 
It's refreshing (especially for those who grew up in the "Hit Me Baby One More Time" era) to watch an individual talent like Lorde encourage thousands of young girls to become dreamers and writers and performers — or whatever else they might want to become — on their own terms.
 
Once set-closer "Green Light" ended in an explosion of screams, confetti and green light (of course), Lorde exited the stage; she returned a minute later, standing alone in the centre of the stage to do "Loveless" and non-album track "Precious Metals." And when she said a jubilant communal goodbye to the adoring crowd with Pure Heroine anthem "Team," it felt like she was rooting for her fans as much as they were cheering for her.
 
 

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