With the stage dressed like Liberace’s abandoned cabana, all giant candelabras festooned with strings of jewels and a stuffed raven, faux palm trees and a couple of stone lions thrown in for good measure, this is sepia-toned stills of Sunset Boulevard, this is the fuzzy Valley of the Dolls vision of the myth of Americana that runs through the veins of Born to Die the faded glamour paradise that Lana Del Rey inhabits, writ large, ready for her to take her place.
As she steps carefully out on stage looking like Glinda the Good Witch by way of Rita Hayworth in her sugar-plum doily dress and perfect chestnut bouffant, the doomed prom queen has yet to open her mouth and the crowd are already in a state of delirious frenzy. Any cranks, cynics and naysayers that smugly overdosed on schadenfreude watching her ill-fated Saturday Night Live performance would have been sharply silenced as she launches into a pitch-perfect rendition of the seductive ‘Cola’ moving from smoky purrs to sharp somersaults in the cool blink of a jumbo lashed eye. As ‘Body Electric’ booms into life with its twanging spaghetti-western guitars all the P.R. gubbins about the ‘gansta Nancy Sinatra’ have bloomed into some kind of truth, she’s a postmodern chanteuse cooing about her daddy Elvis and mama Marilyn as the bleached-out film reel like a collage of Instagram shots flickers behind her and a thousand Twitpics are born.
Her power is in those molasses-dark vocals, the aching seriousness of sour love she expresses soulfully in a devastating version of ‘Born to Die’ her voice teetering to the edge of tears as Vicar Street transforms into Club Silencio for four heart stopping minutes. Lana breaks her own spell by answering a fan’s plea to marry them by trilling ‘Oh! Don’t be so cool’ and laughing like Tinkerbell before shaking hands and accepting the bizarre gift of some ladies underwear thrown onstage like a seasoned star.
After powering through the lush ‘Young and Beautiful’ complete with a string quartet and a flash of ‘Blue Velvet’ she wanders through the crowd handing out copies of ‘Lolita’ to bemused revellers and girls wearing flower headpieces who may have sung every word to ‘Carmen’ but might not have discovered that fateful scene where Humber Humbert attempts to distract his Lolita with those very words. Her beautifully realised version of the nightmarish side of the American dream becomes complete with this one action.
Literature generosity over she exits the stage to show the full introduction to the ‘Ride’ video with its biker gang, strip mall, neon lights, vast highway emptiness it imbues the lost desperation and the rinsing emotional misery of the song. Her vocals are vulnerable and pained until she unleashes the victorious line “I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy” hundreds of hands shoot up into the darkness confirming she’s not the only one and goosebumps only subside as it draws to a climactic close.
As the cheers ring out and threaten to peel the walls apart Lana attempts to speak about her treatment at the hands of ever-vicious critics and bloggers but can only manage half a sentence of thanks before her voice is lost amongst the screams as the familiar harp flourishes of ‘Video Games’ begin. There will never be another ‘Video Games’ a perfect conjurors trick of a song that glides on Disney-like strings, a confection that only renders the sullen vocals and giant chorus even more breathtaking. Overwhelmed with tears in her eyes she stumbles through the chorus letting the crowd take over like a fantastically crazed choir bellowing the lines “It’s you, it’s you” like demonic lust monsters. Finishing with the colossal triumph that is ‘National Anthem’ it feels like ticker tape should be falling from the ceiling as the chorus rings out when really it is glitter that explodes in every heart that got to witness pop at its most magically perfect.