After the bereaved cancellation of her set at last year’s Free Press Summer Fest, (Rest in Peace) Lorde made a long-awaited stop in Houston to promote her newest album Melodrama. What suddenly became one of my favorite performances I have personally witnessed, started off promising yet notably strange.
Opening for Lorde were two extremely contrasting artists: Tove Styrke and Run the Jewels; a Swedish-pop sensation and the Adult Swim-affiliated rap duo. Styrke took the stage first in a fiery outfit of flowing oranges and reds.
After about 3 songs she stops and thanks Lorde for the opportunity to tour with her. What happened next is something I have yet to see at any other show before – she covered a song by the headliner – Lorde’s “Liability.” Tove Styrke’s cover left a lot to be desired but I feel like this is due to the fact of how ambitious it is to cover a headliner’s song and it caught me off guard, or because she sort of flubbed a few of the lines in the first verse. Whatever the case, Tove followed this song with their single “Say My Name,” with an energy that got the crowd moving.
Right after Tove Styrke came Run the Jewels. The moment I saw their logo, I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. I was surrounded by a crowd made up of mainly early teenage girls, their moms, women in their mid-thirties and their drag-along boyfriends – how would they react to Run the Jewels?
Entering the stage to Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” was an interesting choice, but the crowd loved it so whatever. Despite the obvious fact that the crowd didn’t really know RTJ, I think their set was extremely entertaining. RTJ’s performance was solid, and they definitely left the Toyota Center with some new fans. Sprinkled throughout the stadium I could see the few standout fans in the crowd rapping along to their older tracks like “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” and “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1.” All the audience members who did not know about RTJ prior to this concert absolutely got an accurate taste of who they are and what their catalog consists of. Throughout the show it was notably apparent Killer Mike and El-P were stoked to be there, confused crowd or not, as they took almost every opportunity to thank the crowd for being there, thank Lorde for the opportunity to tour together, and make self-aware jokes likening their presence to the drunk or loud distant cousins who weren’t really invited to the reunion but were fun to be around regardless – their words not mine. The set was chock full of hilarious back-and-forth between the two MCs, funny little theatrics sprinkled into their delivery, and wacky skit-like antics. A moment which really made my head spin was when they brought out BOOTS to perform his part of 2100; okay what really made my head spin wasn’t the fact alone of BOOTS’ guest performance, but how suddenly he appeared on stage and how hastily he was rushed off stage. If I had one of those soul-escaping yawns happen to come over me, I would have definitely missed it.
Finally, the moment was upon us – the stage lights dimmed, fog filled the air, and instrumental music began to rise in volume. Blue lights flashed to reveal a team of dancers on a glass platform. A few moments passed and the light flashed again, this time revealing the dancers in another position.
This continued on, with more and more dancers joining the initial crew of three until her voice rang out – a wave of awe and excitement came over the crowd in such a manner it was almost audible.
Instead of continuing in a play-by-play of the concert, I want to go on record and say that before this concert I wouldn’t have called myself a fan of Lorde per se. I didn’t dislike her music, on the contrary, I always thought it was good, but not really something I got into on my own. That being said, this concert completely made me do a 180 on my opinion. Lorde is an artist you really just have to go see for yourself. Putting on a hell of a show with such grace and genuine enjoyment was something I have never seen in an artist of her caliber. For the most part, when an artist reaches a certain level, I feel like they make a slight compromise on their character or enjoyment for the sake of the showmanship, however, that was not the case with Lorde.
From laughing and joking with the dancers in between songs, to stopping the performance “just to talk and get to know Houston,” to telling the story of how she cried when her show was cancelled last year, and even covering “Solo” by Frank Ocean (I KNOW right?!) Lorde gave me the best show I’ve ever seen in a stadium setting, and one of the greatest performances I’ve seen in a long time.
Thank you Lorde, come back to Houston sometime. We loved having you.