Despite surging in popularity since 2014, Lorde graced an intimate venue, The Anthem, for her return to Washington, D.C., on Sunday, April 8, creating an environment that blended familiarity and grandeur.
The open floor of The Anthem meant that fans lined up hours before the show to get as close to Lorde as possible. Inside the venue, the floor was packed, with some attendees tweeting about the lack of space and injuries sustained trying to get into the venue. Given these accounts, entry could have been handled better, though the venue did provide fans the opportunity to be closer to Lorde.
Lorde brought two very different openers on the road with her on this part of the North American leg of her tour. First up was Mitski, a singer whose sound progressed from alternative to full-on rock. Wielding her bass the entire set, she was understated and composed: Her powerful music and voice spoke for themselves.
Next up was Grammy-nominated hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, a surprising but ultimately excellent choice. Composed of rappers Killer Mike and El-P, the two formed RTJ in 2013. Their rap performance elicited smiles, and the audience loved Killer Mike’s goofy dance moves.
A dramatic sea of fog and blue lights set the stage as Lorde began with “Sober,” from her 2017 album “Melodrama.” She then moved through “Homemade Dynamite,” also from “Melodrama,” which featured her signature quirky dancing. Asking the audience, “Are you in a dancing mood?” she launched into “Tennis Court” from the 2014 album “Pure Heroine,” with one dancer accompanying her.
She worked the stage with a bright performance of “Magnets,” a collaboration with electronic music duo Disclosure, and she engaged her dancers with fun choreography. From there, she moved to three deeper cuts from her first album: “Buzzcut Season,” “400 Lux” and “Ribs.”
Her dancers brought energy and storytelling to the show, adding to Lorde’s performance without detracting or distracting. “Buzzcut Season” showcased two female dancers engaged in an interpretative dance while “400 Lux” featured a dancer trapped in a box for the duration of the song, seemingly dramatizing the song’s subject of living in the suburbs.
Lorde made a quick costume change within the clear box, replacing her black shirt for a white one and trading her mesh pants for a tulle skirt, signaling a transition back to her newer songs.
“The Louvre,” off “Melodrama,” started with just Lorde at the microphone against a black stage before a pair of dancers and the rest of the troupe joined her. These moments added visual and emotional drama that could only come from having other performers on stage.
“Writer in the Dark” was a standout of the night that showcased Lorde’s impressive range and how she uses it to evoke the deepest of emotions. She followed this song up with her only cover of the night, “Solo” by Frank Ocean. The last of this trio was “Liability.” The live version just as stunning and heart-wrenching as the recording, and the audience cathartically sang along.
She used “Sober II (Melodrama)” as a transition back to the production-heavy songs. The red and blue lighting matched the dark and haunting edge of the track while the dancers moved inside the clear box suspended above the stage.
A dance break provided Lorde time to change into a green mesh tracksuit before she returned to perform “Supercut.” She began with another dancer inside the backlit box before exiting to dance out the story. Then, alone, with white flashing lights around the box, she began “Royals,” and her enthusiasm visibly increased.
Lorde continued going all out for “Perfect Places,” the closing track of “Melodrama”; the energy from her and the crowd was electric. At the end of the song she laid down on stage, exhausted. But there was still “Greenlight.”
“D.C., I need you with me right now … all of that heartbreak, all of that pain … Let it all f—king go,” Lorde said with dancers returning to the stage.
They did, with both Lorde and the crowd jumping with all they had left. Star-shaped confetti, some featuring “just another graceless night” written in script, cascaded from the ceiling for what seemed like the finale.
Yet, Lorde returned to the stage alone with just a grid controller, which she used to bring the electronic aspects of “Loveless” and “Precious Metals,” an unreleased track, to life. While they were somewhat odd choices for the encore, the swan song of the night was the appropriate “Team” from “Pure Heroine.” Lorde ran down in front of the barricade to greet fans who had been waiting for her all day, and the moment signified how Lorde and her fans are indeed on the same “team.”
Her encore was an uplifting end to a show that was more a full-on theatrical production than simple concert — a melodrama in every sense of the word, full of expressive performances of heartbreak, passion and pure joy.