There are screams and then there are true girl screams. Those hair pulling, face clawing, hormone curdling cries, which are almost solely reserved for Harry Styles’ simpering moppet face appearing on a jumbo screen. These piercing arrows of delirium are offered up to the slice of tangerine tearing through the darkness, Lana Del Rey stands quietly, doll-like as a Priscilla Presley hologram, she almost flickers like the black and white screen behind her and then drawls “My pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola” into every rapt teenage face. As opening lines goes, it’s as triumphant as they come.
As she breezes effortlessly from ‘Blue Jeans’ to the dark-trance of ‘West Coast’ the screams rise further, with their plastic flower crowns jammed on their heads and their giant eyelashes stuck to their cheeks with frenzied tears, this image of the loneliest Miss America on stage speaks to those breathless fantasists. Like the best moody 60s girl-groups made up of tough, sad-faced girls, Lana Del Rey tears pages from those teenage heads, creates melody from melodrama and fuels those daydreams of bad boys and wistful heroines that are too in love with beauty and half in love the romanticism of danger and tragedy.
A mass swooning almost takes place when Kimye’s love anthem for the Insta-generation ‘Young and Beautiful’ booms into life over a sound system that also annoyingly fades in and out of consciousness all too often during the night. When she exits the stage in her now famed ‘walk about’ segment, tripping through the crowd, she accepts their tricolours, teddies and arms flung wide, the endless selfies taken are almost a metaphor for the show itself, the reality skewed, the frozen image the only thing of true value, the high-gloss emptiness.
After Ms. Del Rey’s curious comments about her now mythic Vicar Street show last summer, it does beg the question, is she actually deriving any pleasure from performing live or are the smiles and sweet treatment of her adoring fans just as constructed as the character she plays? Her enjoyment of the show and her appreciation of the ear bludgeoning response seem genuine but with the setlist only peppered with new tracks from her enchanting second album, it is strange to find her trotting out an almost identical set list from last year, rather than using the night as an opportunity to unleash Ultraviolence in all its maudlin glory. The lush solitude of ‘Sad Girl’ and the haunting beauty of ‘Shades of Cool’ are mysteriously absent, a note-perfect rendition of ‘Money, Power, Glory’ and a shimmering ‘Ultraviolence’ are the only second-album treats handed out, but they sadly lose their intimate impact due to the imposing surroundings, with her voice fluttering around the tent like a dying butterfly. Ultraviolence does not contain the wide-screen epics like ‘Ride’ or ‘Born to Die’, that bloom into their full cinematic glory in the darkened marquee, Ultraviolence is an up close and too-personal album for dingy dive bars and abandoned ballrooms, an album that hopefully will get the full live outing it deserves in a more appropriate venue at a later date.
She exits the stage to the strains of the hymn-like ‘National Anthem’, the audience bellowing, begging to be the centre of someone else’s life. Faceless voices chanting that “Money is the anthem of success”, her transformation into the new Material Girl – with more than a coquettish wink to the eye-rollers – is complete. Lana may not be the wedding-dress singing, feminist-spouting Mrs. Carter, she’s not the knowing arty prankster Gaga, the car-crash of Bieber or the corniness of Katy Perry, she’s something else. To the captivated crowd tonight she is an image of the exquisite pain of young love, a portrait of a mixed up, made up girl that beats in every idealistic heart that resonates with the ‘Summertime Sadness’-squealing girls and boys. The lights come up and the crowd blink into the glow, she’s disappeared like those magical, unknowable screen-stars and those intoxicating dreams that remain half-remembered in the morning.