Ever since becoming a worldwide pop sensation at 16 with last year’s Pure Heroine, New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde has straddled the line between “aw-shucks” teenager and canny superstar-in-the-making. She’s down-to-Earth enough to get personable with fans online, but still careerist enough to pen lyrics like “I’m little but I’m coming for the crown.” That dichotomy was on full display Friday night at the BMO Harris Pavilion, as the now-17-year-old put on an alternately intimate and oversized show that handily put to shame her pop and rock contemporaries—and many of her elders, too.
Following a subdued set from self-effacing Canadian duo Majical Cloudz, Lorde took the stage to ear-splitting shrieks and wild applause. She donned a matching royal-blue outfit—one that would later change to all-white and all-red—though a pair of boxing trunks would have been just as appropriate: For her entire 80-minute set, the wild-haired singer punched, kicked, and flailed about the BMO stage. “Glory And Gore” kicked off the set, followed by the one-two punch of the excellent “White Teeth Teens” and the chart-happy “Tennis Court.” Initially accompanied by a two-man keyboards-and-drums band, and framed by a simple three-screen backdrop, Lorde’s stage show only grew more ambitious and singular as the night went on. Smoke bubbles floated above the crowd during “400 Lux,” a strobe-light screen was brought in for the badass “Biting Down,” and twin confetti cannons blasted off during the penultimate (and show highlight) “Team.” For the singer’s first and biggest hit, “Royals,” a red velvet backdrop was produced, along with a large carnival-esque sign that read “Tonight: The Tragic And Wonderful Triumphal Procession Of Lorde.” All throughout, Lorde’s well-beyond-her-years voice and pugilistic moves kept the crowd on its feet, screaming and enraptured. (And hoisting its phones—once by request—ensuring that somewhere in the night, Jack White was having a fit.)
About that crowd: After years of struggling to draw respectable post-Summerfest numbers, the BMO Harris Pavilion finally found its groove thanks to some crafty booking from the Pabst Theater. The 5,000 seats beneath the pavilion roof were filled to capacity, with plenty of folks milling about on the adjoining grounds. (Oh, and the Pitch’s/Miss Katie’s stand was open for business, which was awesome.) Lorde herself seemed genuinely impressed with the venue, repeatedly mentioning the choice view of downtown and the lake (“Lake Michigan is right there. No big deal.”), and claiming it was the “biggest show we’ve played on this tour.” She even paid tribute to her newfound love of Milwaukee with a special cover of Bon Iver’s “Heavenly Father” (a cover she’s been playing the entire tour, but never mind).
The night’s only lull came when Lorde shared some extensive deep-teen thoughts on perennial deep-teen subjects like being young and getting older. “Isn’t it crazy how we all grow up?” Indeed, Lorde, indeed. Still, the monologue nicely segued into “Ribs” (“And I’ve never felt more alone / Feels so scary getting old”) and surely resonated with the young crowd. It also served as a stark reminder of just how preternaturally accomplished Lorde is. By the time the show ended with Heroine closer “A World Alone” (there was no encore), it was no longer difficult to square up the sometimes-raw, always-electric previous 80 minutes with the diminutive 17-year-old leaving the stage. Lorde proved herself a bona fide superstar with more than enough talent to match—impending 18th birthday be damned.
1. Glory And Gore
2. White Teeth Teens
3. Tennis Court
4. Buzzcut Season
5. No Better
6. 400 Lux
7. Flashing Lights (Kanye West cover)
9. Biting Down
10. Heavenly Father (Bon Iver cover)
11. Still Sane
15. A World Alone