Amidst the hoopla, hype and verbal volleys from musical stillborns such as British X-Factor contestant Cher Lloyd, Lorde has emerged a potential saviour – a presence that suggests pop is not lost after all.
Like Frank Ocean (the artist she flawlessly substituted in for at this year’s Splendour) the 16-year-old depicts the monotony and plastic ambitions of Gen-Y with biting simplicity: “It’s a new art form showing people how little we care,” she coldly shoots from ‘Tennis Court’.
Ocean aside, there’s strains of Lana Del Rey and a dollop of lo-fi Florence Welch. Still, for the most part – and as she demonstrates on stage – it’s all Lorde.
Tonight is the first of her two sold-out slots at the Corner and the last time we’ll be witnessing her in such confined, well, corners.
Prior to the Kiwi’s appearance, Sydneysider and purveyor of all things ‘synth ‘n loop’ Oliver Tank greets a building crowd. Unfortunately, artists like Tank are always at a disadvantage playing live because, essentially, his intimate one-man-band style is better suited to oversized headphones than the stage.
With so many backing loops, it’s tricky to tell where the playing starts and stops, nonetheless he does more than enough to impress a warming room. Plus a cover of Snoop Dogg and Pharrell’s ‘Beautiful’ helps things along, too.
Out comes Lorde and so too does the shock value of how a 16-year-old can command such a presence. She’s a marketer’s dream – when the backing lights beam from behind and all that’s left is a silhouette of curls, there’s little doubt about where she’s heading.
She wastes little time and digs right into ‘Bravado’, the first cut from her debut EP. Presence aside, there isn’t much else supporting her on stage – aside from a drummer and a rather laconic keyboardist – and it becomes apparent that there’ll be no lack of backing tracks.
It’s a touch disappointing, to be honest. A larger entourage would’ve been nice. Plus, the sight of a white apple illuminating from the back of a laptop always dampens the vibe of a live venue.
Also, despite her best attempts, there’s little the 16-year old can do to energise a Melbourne crowd that’s either still hungover from the weekend or simply not familiar enough with her catalogue to dance along.
Nonetheless, with her spasmodic, Thom Yorke-like moves and a few casual flicks of her frazzled locks, Lorde looks the part, especially when ‘Glory And Gore’ bleeds into ‘Tennis Court’ and ‘Buzzcut Season’.
If the first half of her performance is designed to unleash her excellent stage presence, the second reinforces her musical ferocity that strengthens her status as pop’s new leader.
Arguably the show’s highlight comes courtesy of a thrilling rap at the end of ‘Ribs’. It powers a sudden turn of speed that gives the night a bass-driven jolt. Following in the slipstream of this, Lorde orchestrates her strongest material; ‘400 Lux’, the sensational ‘A World Alone’ and ‘Royals’.
As expected, ‘Royals’ receives the most rapturous of receptions, even though the teenager opts to let much of the backing tracks do the heavy lifting by tackling the lower register of the vocals.
Still, it’s a minor poke – Lorde is readymade brilliance. At 16, she has the mind, class and nous to say what we all think. At 16, she has the talent and reach to inspire others to take her lead.
The future burns brightly for Lorde, as it now does for the normally disposable realm of modern pop music.
Lorde Setlist @ Corner Hotel – 21/10/2013
2. Biting Down
3. Glory and Gore
4. Tennis Court
5. Buzzcut Season
6. Swinging Party
8. White Teeth Teens
9. Good Fights
11. 400 Lux
12. A World Alone