When Lana Del Rey floated onto the stage in her floor-length red dress with a white daisy headband crowning her long dark hair, she looked every in the —to quote her Twitter bio— “angel headed hipster.” The other half of that bio defines her as an “American poet.” The response from fans in attendance at Lollapalooza on Friday would suggest that’s equally accurate.
Here’s what most people immediately want to know when they hear that Lana Del Rey has performed live: Was she terrible?
Well, no, she wasn’t.
For those whose knowledge of Del Rey’s music begins and ends with her infamous “Saturday Night Live” appearance, the phrase “Lana Del Rey concert” is enough to elicit eye rolls. Her Lollapalooza set, however, wasn't for the haters—it was for her fans, and there were many in attendance last night.
Del Rey opened with “Cola” off of 2012’s Paradise EP, and the crowd sing-along started right away. “I’m so excited to see you,” she said, crouching down to serenade the folks who must have been camping out since Disclosure’s set just to see the woman self-described as the "gangster Nancy Sinatra" up close. An audience member screamed “louder, Lana!” and the set did seem maintain a volume slightly too low to compete with Nine Inch Nails, who were playing the nearby Bud Light stage.
Del Rey said they were happy to be back performing stateside and that “the energy is absolutely electric” before launching into “Body Electric,” but it was her third song that officially turned the crowd on. During “Blue Jeans” Del Rey often pointed her mic at the adoring throng, letting them revel in the joy of enthusiastically singing lyrics like “love you more/than those b-tches before” in unison at the top of their lungs.
Shuffling her way back and forth across the stage, Del Rey emitted ghostly, melismatic “ooooh”s in the breaks between a few songs, which ultimately settled an overheard debate on whether or not she was lip-syncing. Then she would announce what song she’d sing next, always met with cheers and plenty of voluntary backup assistance.
The set peaked with “Young and Beautiful,” one of the (few) excellent songs on the Great Gatsby soundtrack, as the crowd lit up with phones videotaping the performance and onlookers asked each other, themselves, and the summer air, “Will you still love me/When I’m no longer young and beautiful?”
Del Rey’s Lolla appearance wasn’t the best vocal performance of the night, and her stage presence could be described as “low-key” or “in the classic torch-singer style,” depending on who you ask (she was smoking at one point).
Yet watching her hour-long stint, which she closed with an apologetic “you know with these festivals, it’s shorter sets” and a plug for her upcoming film Tropico before finishing with “National Anthem,” it was easy to imagine her doing this decades into the future. This future may involve a Vegas residency and "Night of 1000 Lanas" events in which drag queens compete for Best Impersonator, but a future nonetheless.
Her self-styled campy image isn't for everyone, but her perfect pouty songs for the lovelorn are the core of her appeal. This ability to write songs that compel women AND men to fervently join the chorus—scientists call it “The Fiona Apple Effect”—would suggest that they will, in fact, still love Lana Del Rey when she’s no longer the fresh-faced chanteuse.
Check out all the best photos from day 1 of Lollapalooza: