The show was always going to be an interesting one from the outset. Lana Del Rey was due to play two sold out nights at Glasgow’s O2 Academy. Then, a few weeks before, the shows were amalgamated to a single night at the SECC.
I had a few mixed feelings about this. Would she be able to captivate the bigger venue? Can she actually sing? Lana Del Rey has had a lot of negative press and some of that was now lodged in my mind.
If I’m honest I wasn’t really sure what expect at all from the gig. She isn’t exactly classic girlie pop, or seems to be given kudos as a completely credible artist. Lana has had a lot of stick in the media and online about her not actually being a Lana rather just poor Lizzie Grant. Other things I’ve read focus on her not being able to sing live. I don’t know where the latter came from cause this girl had an amazing set of lungs tonight.
With a three-piece band and a four-member string section the stage looked like a little corner of glamorous America had come to visit. An ornate gold stage set, lion statues and palm trees adorned the stage. Lana was wearing a white dress in keeping with the glamorous look and hit the stage five minutes after the band had played a long intro for ‘Cola’ (from the Paradise EP).
Before the song had finished Lana had walked down the steps at the front of the stage and sung to the front row, posed for a few photos and even signed an autograph for one fan!! In all my years of going to concerts I’ve certainly seen singers walk the barrier, but I have never seen any sign an autograph with one hand whilst sing into a mic in the other.
By the time the third song ‘Blue Jeans’ had begun I was captivated. The band created grand textures of sound, the images on the big screen (designed to look like a mirror) added to the overall effect of being taken on a journey and sharing the moment with Lana. I cannot emphasise enough how impressed by her singing I was. The live mix brings her voice front and centre of the music rather than embedded deeper as it is on record. My wife suggested she sounded way better live than on record and I totally agree.
Soon after came the excellent ‘Born to Die’ which vocally reminded me of Shea Seger – a girl who deserves way more credit than she ever got. ‘Carmen’ was up next and then ‘Blue Velvet’. The recorded version just oozes atmosphere and I love it. For all the credit I am giving Lana for her performance tonight, on ‘Blue Velvet’ something just didn’t gel. The voice was not quite as strong as it had been on earlier songs, and the connection to the lyrics was not quite there. A minor let down.
Baz Luhmann’s movie The Great Gatsby is getting a lot of press at the moment as is Lana’s song from the film, ‘Young and Beautiful’. When she announced it was to played next to the crowd there was a massive cheer and then Glasgow sung with her. I do love this track myself and if the rumours are anything to go by this will be a future Oscar contender. On tonight’s heartfelt performance alone I’d vote for it!!
One thing I did like about the show overall was that for all the polish in Lana’s imagery – her single covers, her look, her videos, the photo shoots – she does not come across as anything close to plastic or pretentious. She seemed overwhelmed at times, and giggled and spoke freely with the crowd. Nothing seemed over-rehearsed or performed within an inch of its life.
One thing I particularly liked about the show was that there didn’t seem to be a rigid set list. Sure some tracks’ positions were clearly set in stone, however several times you could clearly see Lana and her band discussing what to play next. She could be heard say “Lets do…” or “I feel like….” One time she even said to the crowd, “I don’t know whether I should do ‘American’ or ‘Gods and Monsters'”. I have since checked a good handful of set lists for the European tour and they are all different with only the openers and closers remaining the same which seems to agree with the appearance of true spontaneity on stage.
In the end we got ‘American’. Nearing the end of the song Lana was back down walking along the front of the crowd. Someone put a floral crown on her. She wore it and didn’t seem to care about her image – it actually suited her and was reminiscent of the ‘Video Games’ single cover. For the last line she decided to sing “like a Glaswegian” rather than ‘American’ then she started to really laugh and walked back to stage pleased with herself.
Rather than a traditional encore tonight we were treated to two halves broken by the video intro to “Ride”. Lana appeared back on stage (it should be noted no costume change or anything crass) and the crowd reaction was impressively loud. Actually her vocal in the first verse was quite broken as a result. It was clear she was emotional and moved. By the end of the verse she had got it together but kept grinning for the rest of the song.
In keeping with how much she was clearly enjoying tonight’s show during ‘Burning Desire’ she mentioned, “We knew Glasgow was going to be good but we didn’t think it’d be this good!” Perhaps she says it every night, but it seemed truly genuine.
‘Video Games’ and ‘National Anthem’ ended proceedings, the latter turning into an easily 15 minute extended instrumental as Lana once more went down to the front barrier and walked from one edge to the complete opposite edge, stopping and talking to each fan, taking photos with them, even taking cameras and phones off people to make sure they got a good picture and retaking it for them, kissing fans and signing anything they put in front of her. I particularly liked the fan who presented a copy of The Great Gatsby novel to sign!
As I said at the beginning I have never seen a performer ever take so much time or share such exchanges with her fans as I have tonight. This was not a “run along the front smacking hands with all those outstretched”; this was something worthy of major respect.
Having watched the entire show I’d like to go back to the “She isn’t Lana Del Rey, she’s Lizzie Grant who couldn’t make it famous” comments out there. Yes she is Lizzie Grant but remember Zimmerman, Dwight, Furnier, Jones, Hewson, Germanotta, or any other successful artist did the exact same.
Based on tonight Lana Del Rey is as real as any of those stars and has more than a little amount of respect from this (at times very cynical) seasoned gig goer.