It might be easy to slot her into this trope, especially given her Boston show’s ethereality—a video of a children’s choir, a floating cage, the bizarre onset costume change—but Lorde is not lost in her own world. If anything, she’s keenly connected to ours. “This one is for the kids who grew up in the suburbs,” she said at TD Garden on April 3, before launching into “400 Lux,” a song from her debut album “Pure Heroine.” The crowd cheered, and my own hand flew into the air in an act of involuntary self-recognition. “We're never done with killing time,” she crooned. “Can I kill it with you? / 'Til the veins run red and blue.”
Lorde is firmly planted on the ground with us, and that’s exactly where she finds her magic as both a musician and a performer. Lorde’s art derives from the banal and average—songs about high school politics, long drives with close companions—and her shows rely on the fact that she talks to her audience like she talks to an old friend, with a loving honesty that mirrors our own common insecurities, our own common need for expression. “Sometimes I see myself as a mess, kind of cluttered, a lot of emotions—and dreams,” she confessed, while the crowd stayed as silent as it could. “You just have to take me for exactly for who I am,” Lorde added. “Because when I’m great, I’m fucking great. And I want you to know that you can be vivid. You can be wild.”
“I bet she says that to all her venues,” I joke-yelled to my friend, but no amount of half-hearted cynicism could draw away from the feeling that Lorde just understood. Understood what exactly, I’m not sure, but almost every interlude between songs was about validation. “Boston, Boston, Boston,” she repeated at one point in the night. “For the most part, I write my records very quietly, very privately...You emerge from the cave and wonder are people going to get it?” People got it. As she sung “Writer in the Dark,” hundreds of cell phones lit up on cue, illuminating the arena with a hazy gray fog. Before singing “Royals,” the trademark single that elevated her to fame, Lorde said “Bring the lights up! I want to see,” and the arena lit up once again, revealing thousands of fans swaying to the music with her. We were yards away from both Lorde and the lights, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that she wanted to see us too.
Lorde cares about her art, but she doesn’t care about snide comments deriding her eccentricity. A few songs into the setlist, my friend whisper-yelled to me, concerned: “When is Lorde going to start dancing like Lorde?” But when “Buzzcut Season” came on, Lorde flew into action, arms punching the air, legs kicking wildly. We breathed a sigh of relief. If Lorde doesn’t care what she looks like when dancing, then why should we?
That’s part of the reason why it felt like Lorde was our friend during her own concert. It’s not just because she changed costumes on set like she was changing clothes in her best friend’s bedroom. It’s not just because Lorde continuously addressed Boston the city, continuously invited Boston to join in on the experience with her (“Hey Boston. You wanna go somewhere with me?” she asked slyly before launching into “Perfect Places”). It’s because Lorde is unabashedly herself, in the way self-assured people are, but with a sort of genuinity that breaches the line between performer and confidant, the go-to-person to text after a bad day. She has learned—or is learning—self-love, spreading this generation’s newly-coined term’s message across all her audiences.
The next day, someone showed me the Instagram account @overheardcambridge’s post: “I hit up, like, five of my usual booty calls last night, but literally all of them were too busy at the Lorde concert and feeling too empowered to come over after.” It’s funny, but it also accurately captures the message of “Melodrama,” and the tour that takes her sophomoric album’s name. “Melodrama” is a whirlwind of the kind of pain that comes with broken hearts, lost nights, and a sense of hopeless confusion about our place in this world. It’s something that so profusely embraces the anguish of young adulthood, that validates those feelings. “This song is about being alone,” Lorde said during her concert before singing “Liability.” “I understand, I'm a liability / Get you wild, make you leave / I'm a little much for / everyone.”
But Lorde wasn’t alone in that moment, and she knew that. Before launching into the first piece she released from “Melodrama,” “Green Light,” she turned to the thousands and thousands of audience members once more. “All those emotions we talked about—the joy, the pain,” she said. “I need you to feel it in your fingertips and in your feet. We’re going to let it all go.”