Lorde, Shepherd's Bush Empire, gig review: 'Malignantly powerful'

4.00

The 16-year-old exacts total respect with the least visible strain

“I think you're the most respectful crowd I've had in a long time. I dunno if that's a good thing,” jokes Lorde three songs into her set, but she should hardly be surprised by the awe that’s opened up before her.

Lorde exacts total respect with the least visible strain. At the age of 16, her self-possession and refusal to bow to record-company demands led to ‘Pure Heroine’, one of the most idiosyncratic pop albums of recent times, topping the charts in her native New Zealand, Australia and the US.

Though it’s a sonically impressive record, with a deft, minimal arrangement of heavy beats with delicate atmospherics and sinuous melodies, it’s Lorde’s lyrics that really make her music: poetically worded tales of suburban youth, with its fears, thrills and frustrations. They’re so palpably real, there’s no question of fetishising or exploiting that youth - you’re just forced, as is tonight’s rapt audience, to listen to her.

She begins with the smoothly triumphal slink of ‘Gory And Gore’, prowling low below a stage set of huge, ornate, empty picture frames and a crystal chandelier. The following track, ‘Biting Down’, from the earlier ‘The Love Club EP’ turns us to her darker side, with its stuttering beats and dark thrum.

There’s no new material, sadly, but it’s to be hoped that her recently released collaboration with New York-based modern trip-hopper Son Lux, a reworking of his song ‘Easy’, points the way forward. With strange eruptions of brassy skronk and menacing tribal beats, it’s heavy, scary, sonically daring. Lorde’s vocal is malignantly powerful, calling to mind Martina Topley-Bird’s best early work with Tricky.

It makes clear, if it were ever in doubt, that she won’t lack for inspiration once the trials of suburban teendom are behind her. Introducing ‘Ribs’, she confides “Being grown up is something that I've been running from for a very long time… I never want to lose that part of me that believes that you can do anything you want… but if this is what I get to do as a grown-up, then I’m not scared about growing up, because it’s the coolest thing in the world.”

It’s not only an unusually sincere take on the “beautiful audience” routine, but a nice insight into the human vulnerability of one very impressive young woman. The track is pounding, glowing, with a divine, dizzy melody and doubt-riddien lyrics (“This dream isn't feeling sweet/We're reeling through the midnight streets/And I've never felt more alone/It feels so scary getting old”), and it’s followed up with her huge global hit ‘Royals’, with its cooing hook, bouncy beat and sharp dissection of rags-to-riches aspirational tropes in pop.

In a few days, she’ll headline Brixton Academy, and she brings a little of the bigtime to this smaller venue, a confetti cannon hitting at the song’s climax. The last word, however, is stark, and it’s Lorde’s - the closing, deadpanned line: “Let ‘em talk”.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen