Lana Del Rey’s previous visit to the North West was in May 2013. It had been over a year since the New Yorker’s official debut record Born to Die had been released and in that time her status as a bona fide star had grown to the point where Manchester’s Apollo theatre could have been filled several times over by her adoring fans. Four years and four records have passed since this visit and it is fair to say that the anticipation prior to this evening’s show is at fever pitch; many fans have camped overnight to ensure they secure the front rail, with the wait becoming even more excruciating when it’s confirmed that there is to be no support act prior to the nine o’clock start. Eventually the lights dim and the rising screams inside Liverpool’s Echo Arena ensure the venue lives up to its name.
Lana Del Rey is a fascinating musician. Her predominantly young fans adore her and her brief introductions to this evening’s songs are met with impassioned cries of delight, but she is not your typical twenty-first century idol. Body Electric opens the show and the opening three lines identify Del Rey’s creative drive. “Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn is my mother, Jesus is my bestest friend” she sings in her gorgeous baritone, and this baroque slice of Americana revels in the evocative imagery it conjures, but is it a landscape her audience recognises? The pop culture references to a distant mid twentieth century America must be lost on many so how does this iconic musician connect so effectively with her fans? Cherry offers more clues; although the new album is besotted with a sun kissed California that will be familiar to us all cinematically, this song presents a very fragile and personal account of love and relationships that feels very honest, raw and real. Add to this intoxicating concoction the cinematic mystery of next song Shades of Cool and perhaps we’re discovering where the root of this adoration really lies.
Lana Del Rey does not seem from this time and she seems occasionally reluctant to play the pop icon role that many of her contemporaries inhabit, making her seem real and her songs believable. Blue Jeans again borrows from twentieth century pop culture to generate her particular brand of florid melancholia, liberally borrowing from a Lynchian aesthetic which also goes some way to explaining her appeal. This time James Dean is referenced but it’s the overall tone that resonates. Lana Del Rey is a friend in trouble, a Dorothy Vallens character perhaps and we want to be there for her. We want to make sure she makes the right decisions and we want her to help us make the right ones too. What is perhaps most illuminating is that she’s prepared to do this, risking the momentum of the show as she delicately steps down from the stage midway through her set, accepting gifts, bouquets of flowers and emotional embraces from her adoring fans for several minutes, whilst the show goes on hold. The display of unbridled affection is incredibly thrilling however and the crowd on the floor surge forward to get a better view of the star, with the lucky few on the front rail taking selfies and planting huge kisses on her cheeks as she passes along the line.
When she re-emerges on to the stage we are treated to a thrilling mid-section of this evening’s show; the sweeping drama of Ultraviolence and Cruel World is tempered by the sweetly lilting Change, the latter coming from latest record Lust for Life, which is occasionally blessed with a little bit of that California sunshine so vital for growth. Ride follows and hearing this thrilling song live I’m reminding of the stark beauty of films like The Misfits; it’s a thrilling road trip that takes a broad avenue alongside every cinematic icon of the genre, but it is Video Games that gets the biggest response once the opening strains of the track flow amongst us. This is certainly Lana Del Rey at her Lynchian best. Close your eyes and we’re lost amidst an unpredictable Americana of burnt and cracked neon and dusty motel forecourts, full of broken ice machines and foreboding.
A sparse version of Yayo and and a brief a cappella version of Love feel a bit half-hearted after this thrilling journey amongst her greatest songs but we at least conclude with an epic Off to the Races which ends in a cacophony of feedback, long after Miss Lana Del Rey has left the stage.
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Review by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto