What to say about Lana Del Rey…
The renowned ‘Xanax rock’ queen has had anthems in big budget Hollywood films, been recognized several times by the GRAMMY Academy and has garnered countless hours of radio play over six studio albums — on top of being drop-dead gorgeous. But, one thing I didn’t understand until the night of August 11th in San Diego, California was the devout following that regards her similar to a deity here on earth. What was the appeal? LDR songs are, without a doubt, dark and beautiful — each and every one of them. Catchy, contemplative, complicated. All the makings of great art. Yet, diehard fans insist that Lana Del Rey is a show among shows; the ultimate experience when it comes to live music. They weren’t wrong.
Walking up to the gates of San Diego State University’s Open Air Theater, you can see a bulky line extending in either direction of fans waiting to get inside. Fabulous men and women, in suede and leather boots, walked around the perimeter searching for familiar faces. Due to the amount of people outside the fence, LDR apparently decided to push back her performance to allow more time for people to find their seats. What a doll.
Fabulous men and women, in suede and leather boots, walked around the perimeter searching for familiar faces.
SDSU’s Open Air Theater is a unique one, with descending rows of seats downward to the stage, allowing everyone to have a prime view no matter the ticket value. I was lucky enough to be smack dab in the middle, right above the standing only pit area. As the lights went out, lyrics to LDR’s title track off her new album, Norman Fucking Rockwell, typed across a screen onstage. Two dancers in 20s flapper garb came out with a pianist, stretching provocatively across the hood of his grand piano. And, out she came: white dress, big smile, gentle demeanor, light gait, lots of lace. As Lana Del Rey sang the opening bars of “Norman Fucking Rockwell”, she bent down to greet front row members, accepting several bouquets of flowers along the way.
As the whole venue reverberated with screams like she was a Beatle, I studied Lana Del Rey — taking it all in what made her so majestic. To be honest, it was a culmination of everything. Her gifts she accepted with sincere gratitude and grace, setting all of the tokens around the stage as she continued her set list. Swinging playfully from swings one minute to joining her girls atop the piano the next, it was almost as if LDR was in a trance of her own, never breaking her cool disposition. The stage plot had an apple tree stage left, with apples that descended when Lana sang underneath it. Songs like “Video Games” and “Born To Die” were early in the night, getting everyone riled up. Concertgoers in the row ahead of me were mimicking every dance move Lana did, proudly being conspicuous how many Lana shows they’ve racked up over the years. Although downtempo, the concert had its pep, with songs like “Off To The Races” and “Summertime Sadness”, with Lana’s cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” to follow next. Lana took a moment to thank Sublime family for being in the audience that night, stating that Sublime is hands down her favorite band of all time. Interesting factoid, considering her airy music severely differs from Sublime’s hard rock and ska of the 90s.
Swinging playfully from swings one minute to joining her girls atop the piano the next, it was almost as if LDR was in a trance of her own…
A medley of songs in the middle of the set was a nice twist, as Lana liked to narrate what she was doing to the audience ahead of time. Her breadth of discography showed, hopping from her premiere album to her latest in “West Coast”, “Bartender”, “Ultraviolence” and so many others. What was truly beautiful was that twice during the show, Lana hopped down to the front row to meet-and-greet fans, signing autographs even in the middle of a song! One signing went on for five or so minutes; nobody minded watching the goddess show her authenticity off.
Ending with “Venice Bitch” off the new album, side stage cannons launched confetti high into the air. As the shards of satin rained down on the crowd, I finally understood the obsession with Lana Del Rey. She’s a light in the darkness, an inspiration for us all. Her pure aura attracts misfits and debutantes alike. I am forever impressed.
Catch Lana Del Rey at the tail end of her fall tour with dates below!
Photography by Kristy Rose