May 16, 2014 by David Hagelgans
Lana Del Rey came to the Mann Center for the Performing Arts’ Skyline Stage and delivered a knock-out performance May 11.
Del Rey, known for her hit songs “Summertime Sadness” and “Video Games,” has received some poor reviews due to her performance on Saturday Night Live in 2012. This performance was what I believe many fans were expecting from her concert: awkward body movements and poor vocals. However, what the audience received was the ultimate Lana Del Rey experience as she sang under “the pale moon light.”
After a short set by Jimmy Gnecco, which received mixed feelings from the crowd, the stage slowly began to fill with smoke and the crowd became restless. Finally, music began and Del Rey walked out wearing a floral print long sleeve dress with a leather belt around her waist that I believe she stole from a ‘70s housewife.
She opened up with “Cola,” which was a nice unexpected twist for an opener. It benefitted many fans, as it was a good opportunity to hear her voice without 14,000 people, mostly teenage girls, singing along as the majority of the audience was unfamiliar with the tune.
Her next two songs were “Body Electric” and “Blue Jeans.” These songs were much more well-known and they allowed a lot more of the audience to sing along. The only issue with this was that about 90 percent of the audience proceeded to bring out their iPhones to snapchat the event to their BFFs.
After three songs she paused to ask if she could “grab a cigarette,” which she proceeded to smoke during the next few songs. Del Rey is probably seen as a stage act with that distinct, sexy smooth voice, which almost sounds falsified. However, seeing her on stage it was easy to see that’s really who she is as she talked with the crowd.
She told the audience, “I wanted to play a song called ‘West Coast,’” (her new single) which caused an instant confusion in the audience as to why she could no longer sing it. The answer was obvious, “Although I wouldn’t feel right. I should sing a song called East Coast.” She then proceeded to sing “West Coast” as reformatted for the East Coast.
There were multiple points during the performance when she would come down into the audience, one thing I feel many performers no longer do. Her continued interactions with the audience along with the small outdoor venue size made the concert feel intimate.
By now, the sun had set on the hill and we stood on a warm spring night under the moon overlooking the beautiful city skyline. The band would play random intrudes before each song, which really kept the audience on their toes. Del Rey asked as the music played on, “Are you sure you guys can see me? It’s pretty smoky up here.” This comment was met with a roar of cheers.
As the roar died, the beat dropped and the iconic strings of the song that titled her second studio album began to play. “Born to Die” was probably one of the best-performed songs of the night. She belted every word, danced along with the audience, and seemed to enjoy watching us have a good time.
Del Rey played her most recent hit, “Summertime Sadness,” followed by another vocally stunning performance of “Million Dollar Man.” Before the next song began, the stage went dark and Del Rey began conversing with a man sitting at a piano off in the darkness as more smoke rolled out. The pieces of the conversation from Del Rey’s side were “You want to play what?”
The audience pushed forward in anticipation, “I think we can do that for them.” The piano cords were struck and the audience erupted as a Harley Davidson filled the video screen behind her and the band. Everyone harmonized along as “Ride” began playing.
Although she had played some fan favorites, nothing made people take pictures and record video quite like “Video Games,” Del Rey’s first hit single. After “Video Games,” the band had a real chance to bring a song alive with the next song, “Gods & Monsters,” and they really delivered.
Finally, Del Ray wrapped up by telling the audience that we were her “favorite sexy audience” and thanked us for singing along before a long pause. The band began playing another long intro before the familiar violins of “National Anthem” began to play.
The song closed with a 10 plus-minute outro in which Del Rey came down into the audience signing the baseball cards that were given out when we entered the venue and taking pictures. Never before have I seen an artist who cared so much about her audience.
Very rarely do you see a concert with a performer with such stage presence. While the lack of any encore was upsetting, especially considering the set was only around an hour and 15 minutes, no fan could leave disappointed.
Everyone there got to experience Del Rey in her element: a concert with touches of nature, held under the stars and city lights.