The New Zealand-born pop star headlined a heavyweight bill that featured opening turns from Mitski and Run the Jewels
Even the non-religious had a chance to see the Lorde this Easter weekend, as the New Zealand-born pop singer headlined a stellar bill at the Schottenstein Center on Saturday.
Performing on a sparsely appointed stage, and with a portion of the arena's upper level blacked out with curtains due to lower-than-expected ticket sales, Lorde spent a majority of her set shrinking the venue down to bedroom size. At one point, prior to easing into a three-song string of tender piano ballads, the singer perched on a riser and addressed the audience as though she were instigating conversation at a sleepover. “I feel like we have so much to catch up on,” she said. “You dating anyone, Columbus?”
Fittingly, on Melodrama, her second album, Lorde appears unattached, drifting through a string of drunken nights and random hookups. “Sometimes I wake up in a different bedroom,” she sang on the propulsive “Green Light.” This solitary, adrift feel informed much of the music here, which tended to build on moody, minor-key beats that sounded somewhat muffled, as if emanating from inside a dance club Lorde had just exited in order to get some air and clear her head.
On songs such as “Ribs,” choruses didn't erupt so much as turn inward, mirroring the isolation in lines like “I've never felt more alone.” And even with the pop star accompanied by up to a half-dozen dancers, a sense of solitude pervaded the concert, even her backing back obscured by shadows.
During “400 Lux,” a dancer positioned himself inside the only onstage decor — a glass cube roughly the size and shape of a subway car. Though Lorde stood just inches away, the window separating the two might as well have been an ocean.
Throughout the evening, this boxcar functioned as everything from a de facto dressing room — the intimacy swelled when the pop star deliberately stepped inside and changed outfits early in her set — to a department store window, dancers standing sentinel like motionless mannequins. On several occasions, the cube was hoisted into the air with people inside, taking on the feel of an outsized thought bubble, their various movements mirroring the emotions in the songs.
When Lorde sang of “slipping out of reach” on “Yellow Flicker Beat,” for instance, the cube tilted precariously and a dancer scrambled to maintain her footing. Later, on “Green Light,” the music swelled and spilled over in a glorious rush as Lorde crooned of the “sounds in her mind,” the dancers' gyrations suggesting a similarly uptempo beat pounding inside the pop star's head, the beating drums momentarily drowning out any lingering, reality-based concerns.
For Lorde, the music often felt like a temporary distraction, and the weight of whatever was to follow the party often hung heavy. “What will we do when we're sober?” she asked on the set-opening “Sober.” Similar ideas later surfaced in “Sober II (Melodrama),” Lorde singing of champagne glasses being cleaned up and the reality that parts of the evening would forever be lost in an alcohol-induced haze.
Of course, Lorde's coltish dance moves suggested the harsh light of day still stood at some remove, while the awestruck, aw-shucks demeanor the pop star exhibited between songs cut against the often brooding soundtrack — sometimes to her detriment. (While Lorde's fascination with the cult-ish “O-H, I-O” call and response might be understandable, it lost any charm forced into the middle of an otherwise tender cover of Frank Ocean's “Solo.”)
The songs, however, were almost universally complex, with Lorde both baring her fangs like a great white shark and shrinking away wounded, sometimes within the same emotionally turbulent tune.
Introducing a set-closing “Green Light,” for one, the singer asked the audience to summon all of its joy, pain, heartache and pettiness. She then deployed each in a musical tidal wave that ping-ponged between emotional poles as confetti rained down on the crowd, Lorde standing triumphantly center stage, flaws and all.
Mitski kicked off the evening with a short, scrappy set of dreamy, idiosyncratic guitar rock, though some of the music's odd angles were lost in the cavernous environment, giving the performance the feel of a sound check.
Rappers Killer Mike and El-P of Run the Jewels followed with a heartfelt, humorous, hard-hitting turn deserving of headlining status.
Avoiding any mention of Killer Mike's recent NRA-induced controversy, the dynamic duo introduced themselves as “the weird, drunk uncles at the wedding who snuck in and took over the karaoke machine” and proceeded to plow through songs such as “Blockbuster Night Part 1,” trading kinetic verses atop big, chunky beats.
Killer Mike, a large man with a larynx as lithe and nimble as a gymnast, served as an ideal foil to El-P, whose blunt-edged words tended to hit like a closed fist.
The pair opened its set by dedicating the evening to late Columbus rapper Camu Tao and closed by urging the audience not to give up on humanity, even at a time when things feel politically and socially chaotic. “You are loved,” Killer Mike exclaimed introducing “Down,” a song about regaining one's footing following trying times, presenting the track as though it were a blueprint to better days.