Miami has been waiting a long time for the coming of Lorde. She's not the actual messiah, but as evidenced by the rapturous screams at the American Airlines Arena last night, she's certainly somebody's savior.
"This is five years in the making," the Kiwi singer told the packed arena crowd after singing her first two songs, "Sober" and "Homemade Dynamite," off her latest album, Melodrama. She seemed more blown away by her long absence than the crowd did; Miami music fans are relatively used to being passed over on major tours because of our inconvenient geographical location.
In the years since she bypassed South Florida on multiple legs of a tour in support of her debut album, Pure Heroine, Lorde has cultivated both a mainstream audience that overlaps with those of pop tarts such as her bestie Taylor Swift and also earned the respect of some unexpected elder statesmen. In 2014, she joined the surviving members of Nirvana to perform "All Apologies" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That same year, David Bowie asked to meet her after watching her perform at a private event. After Bowie's death, longtime collaborator Mike Garson said the "Ziggy Stardust" singer considered Lorde "the future of music."
That's an astounding amount of pressure to place on the shoulders of a 21-year-old, but Lorde has taken these votes of confidence from artists who were outsider pioneers in their own day, and used the torches they've passed to light her own path.
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The pop music reign of the past decade, largely led by women, traffics in escapist maximalism and indulgent set design. Katy Perry has been known to ride onto her stage on a mechanical horse, Pink incorporates a high-flying trapeze into all of her tours, and the castle backdrop for Lady Gaga's Born This Way Ball took three days to assemble ahead of every tour stop. Elaborate short films are typically interspersed while stars undergo costume changes beneath the stage.
Not so for Lorde. Her stage design borrowed more heavily from Kanye West's minimalist runway shows and Yeezus Tour aesthetics and Kate Bush's interpretive choreography than from any of her peers in the pop world. The entirety of the concert revolved around a rectangular Plexiglas prism that rose from the stage periodically and tilted while dancers in gray clothing scaled its walls. There were just two costume changes for the singer during the 90-minute set, one of them happening inside the Plexiglas structure as the crowd looked on. Stagehands took apart the LED lights lining the front of the stage and piled them behind the singer while she spoke to the audience. Like her costume change, the deconstruction of the stage went unobscured as she sang "Writer in the Dark" and covered Frank Ocean's "Solo," following it with "Liability," which she called "another song about being alone."
The romanticism she embraced on this album didn't extend only to the maudlin, however. It was in the joy with which she jumped to the staccato beats of "Perfect Places" and the chorus of "Green Light." It was in the passionate hugs she gave fans as she ran offstage late in the show, and in the glimpses of smiles the cameras would sometimes catch from her before the spotlights darkened. "Miami, I might not be back for another five years. Give me the kind of fucking applause I deserve," she screamed toward the end. Her passion was returned in kind. Here's hoping she won't stay away too long this time.