Børns is as fascinating as the “lightning in a bottle” he sings about on his hit “Electric Love.” Although his voice and personal style take inspiration from Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson, he lacks those performers’ emotional commitment and live energy. Technically his music shines, but his lackluster stage presence cast a negative light on the Feb. 13 concert experience.
At the start of his performance at The Anthem, Børns emerged from a cloud of blue light to open with his Lana Del Rey duet, “God Save Our Young Blood.” His voice rang confidently, but the performance missed Del Rey’s signature croon.
From there, Børns sang each song off his new album, “Blue Madonna,” in sequence with very little pause. Every song ended with a dark stage, and Børns avoided audience connection until after his sixth song, “Iceberg.” His comment on the crowd’s energy and sunny dispositions felt like an obvious lead-in to “Second Night of Summer.”
After a lackluster performance of “I Don’t Want U Back” — the least dynamic song off “Blue Madonna” — Børns started into “Tension,” a hypnotic interlude from the album. Basked in warm orange light, Børns combined the tropical, hip swaying jam with Madonna’s “Holiday.” The two songs paired stunningly well, and the crowd was excited to hear Børns take on something new.
The singer breezed through “Supernatural,” performed as celestially as the title suggests, and paused before the song “Blue Madonna” to shout-out his strong openers, Mikky Ekko — best known for his role in Rihanna’s 2013 single “Stay” – and the French-Canadian Charlotte Cardin, whose style is similar to Tove Lo.
Børns closed his first set with “Bye-bye Darling,” a sweet 1980s breakup dream. The singer teased the song’s ending before abruptly returning with staccato keys and surprisingly angelic harmonies. It was a satisfying ending to the concert, but the crowd refused to leave until they heard Børns’ signature track, “Electric Love.”
Pausing just for a quick change, Børns and his band returned to the stage. The encore consisted of highlights from his past album, plus a lovely cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever” with opener Cardin. With him in a cream suit and her in a coordinating jumpsuit, they looked and sounded like twins, particularly with their matching shoulder-length brown hair and complementary voices.
Although the encore reinvigorated the crowd with favorites like “American Money” and “Past Lives,” Børns maintained his apathetic attitude.
Børns best demonstrated emotional detachment in the second-to-last song of the night, “Holy Ghost.” On the album, Børns’ falsetto is confident yet pleading, and the crescendo at the beginning of each chorus is truly cathartic. In concert, however, Børns did not give the song’s powerful moments enough emphasis. He has sung this song hundreds of times, and it was disappointingly obvious he had no interest in making this one feel special.
He closed with “Electric Love,” the debut single off his second EP “Candy.” Though the crowd jumped and sang along, Børns seemed only slightly invigorated by the crowd’s energy.
Børns’ stage presence is much more stoic than his music would suggest. Throughout the night, his stiff movements matched the stiffness of his double-breasted suits. Rather than engaging with the crowd, Børns stood on a short, upstage platform, a great feature for shorter audience members in the mostly standing room-only venue, but Børns’ vibrant music demands a greater stage persona. The most dynamic element of the concert was the vivid light display that pulsed and shifted color to complement each song.
Børns absolutely delivered skill and recording-like voice quality. However, live shows should be a more passionate affair with new interpretations. The otherworldly quality of his music deserved a spectacle and performance worthy of its electricity, which Børns sadly did not deliver.