Lorde presents “Solar Power Tour” at Radio City Music Hall: recap + photos
She got up. Lorde returned to the New York stage — on Easter Monday, no less — just days after postponing a number of shows due to laryngitis. Maybe there was some residual throat in the Kiwi pop megastar, but she barely registered. The beauty of its full “Solar Power Tower” the production at the iconic Radio City Music Hall was enough to cure any discomfort.
Talking about “post-pandemic live music” is already becoming a cliche, but we can’t ignore the impact the last two years have had on performance. On the one hand, there are acts like Lorde’s opener, former artist of the month Remi Wolf. Here’s someone who broke out during a lockdown where the only music absorption came via streams and TikToks. Now, with the return to touring in full swing, she plays Radio City. Think of the mental gymnastics that must take place when you go from a small headliner at Music Hall in Williamsburg to opening Radio City Music Hall for Lorde in just six months.
Could a young performer who had barely gotten his stage legs could handle such a big venue?
For Rémi, the answer is a big yes, big, stinky, smoking, starist. With absolutely zero stage production and only a guitarist and drummer (and backing track) behind her, the Juno the singer completely devoured her show. She used the ramparts on both sides of the stage, the aisles between the seats and her own contagious energy to reach every inch of the large concert hall.
A less promising one may have received polite applause as an opener in a city like this in a venue like that; Remi Wolf had the whole room on their feet at the end, proving that she is a performer who is only beginning to express her dominance live.
Then on the other hand there is Lorde. Firmly a modern pop icon, even such a well-received pandemic album isn’t going to slow her down. Where Remi could only dream of performing live for the past few years, Lorde and her resources could imagine anything they wanted, knowing that when life returned they could welcome it in with open wallets. .
Perhaps that’s why so many major artist shows of late have been precisely choreographed theatrical experiments. The “Solar Power Tour” features a setlist broken down into acts (literally, it’s on the production team’s notes), each marked by a costume change (one of which takes place on stage in silhouette), the all neatly locked around a custom-built set. .
There’s definitely room for a rearrangement, as a quick glance at Setlist.fm will reveal, which leaves room for a few tidbits. On Monday night, that only included the second performance of “Big Star” (a song Lorde billed as one she “never would have thought [she’d] sing live”) and a partial cover of “HENTAI” by ROSALÍA.
Yet the very nature of this kind of pre-scheduled gigs undermines some of the seriousness of the performance. You could argue that music – pop in particular – is most powerful in its ability to manipulate emotion, like a Broadway experience, so a theatrical concert is just an extension of that dynamic. But the dichotomy of recognizing that everything a performer says and does in these situations is predetermined, which removes the spontaneity – or at least the illusion of it – that can be such an important part of concerts.
So maybe all the jokes on his songs focusing on how “emotions affect our bodies – how feelings can change the way we feel” were somewhat scripted; to some extent, aren’t most stage jokes? What really felt rehearsed about the “Solar Power Tour” were the small, deliberate movements of Lorde’s stage and band.
Dressed in matching mustard-colored costumes, the musicians and backing vocalists moved slowly and stiffly through different songs, so subtle that sometimes you forgot they were there – which is a bit of a shame, because there were times when they really shone musically. It felt like a less energetic production by David Byrne, which isn’t meant to be a review, as it fit the kind of melodramatic pop (pun intended) that Lorde delivers at his best.
Additionally, the meticulous positioning of the band members lent itself to the forms (as my high school drama teacher would describe) of the set design. Lorde’s team came up with a relatively simple set: a staircase rising to a vanishing point leaning against what looked like the shell of a giant bass drum, positioned on a rotating base surrounded by asymmetrical staircases, all in front of a projection screen with a giant circle in its center. (Well, it’s a bit more complicated in description than in reality.)
It gave the impression of a giant sundial (see what Lorde did there?) and prevented what was sometimes a static choreography (except when Lorde let loose, as she usually does) to seem completely… well, static. Everything felt constantly layered and leveled, elevated even further by incredible graphic design, like when that giant circle turned into an eclipse or was surrounded by mirrored projections of Lorde.
Look, there’s so much attention on the stage here because that’s precisely the kind of show Lorde puts on for audiences: a show that’s as much about design as it is about music. The trails off Solar energy tended to mix if you weren’t a superfan (and Radio City was filled to the brim with them; and no, Lorde didn’t silence the crowd at any point). Headliners included ‘Mood Ring’, ‘California’, ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ and the ‘Solar Power’ assisted confetti cannon itself. That the main highlights came from Melodrama (“Hard Feelings”, “Supercut”, the always perfect “Green Light”) and pure heroin (the double reminder of “Royals” and “Team”) probably doesn’t shock anyone.
So what gets really interesting is how it was present. The “Solar Power Tour” is very Lorde in 2022, less about firecrackers and more about more subtle beauties. Her costume changes were often breathtaking (the dress worn for the encore was worthy of a red carpet); the decor, at worst, intriguing; and the songs themselves featuring a matured, individualistic pop performer comfortable in her identity. It was do not like the gruff energy of Remi Wolf, but it was a fascinating and equally engaging contrast.
Both performers delivered captivating performances, both from different sides of the post-pandemic spectrum. One tore up a large, empty stage, the other fashioned a beautiful production based on his calmer aesthetic. The fact that the two worked so well in a space the size of Radio City Music Hall demonstrates that, however you approach it, a good show is a good show, especially in 2022.
Ed. Note: Lorde’s Solar Power Tour continues in the United States through August. Get tickets here.
Leader of a new regime
Stoned at the nail salon
Big Star/HENTAI (ROSALÍA cover)/Responsibility
Secrets of a girl (who has seen it all)