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Lana Del Rey review, BST: Singer returns self-assured and impressive following the Glastonbury debacle

This time around, thankfully Del Rey is permitted to finish her stellar set in its entirety

Ben Bryant
Monday 10 July 2023 13:47 BST
Lana Del Rey serenades the crowd on the 10th day of BST Hyde Park
Lana Del Rey serenades the crowd on the 10th day of BST Hyde Park (Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/Shutterstock)

Buried within Lana Del Rey’s enchanting Hyde Park performance is a clue. “This was a second home for a long time,” she says, addressing the London crowd. “You basically made us what we were and allowed us to serve for the last 13 years.”

Even this far into the singer’s career, mysteries remain – and one of those concerns her mostly unreported London years. In the early 2010s, a blonde New York songwriter called Lizzy Grant released her debut studio album. It was a failure, and an unhappy Del Rey retreated to Britain. Decline and obscurity could easily have followed – but her time in London turned out to be formative. She was buoyed by a group of British creatives who helped dust her off and get her back on her feet. And on her next attempt, Del Rey was catapulted to fame. Almost the entirety of Born To Die was co-written with three British writers, including Justin Parker, a man from Lincoln with whom she wrote 2012’s “Video Games”, her biggest hit to date. The cover of the album, and its sleeve images, which depict a US neighbourhood, were actually shot in a Watford suburb on “zero budget”, according to those present. Born To Die might be an American classic – but it was made in London.

So, tonight is something of a curious homecoming for Del Rey, whose ninth studio album Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd released earlier this year is another critically acclaimed work of confessional Americana. Her set folds in cuts that span the entirety of the last 11 years post-Born To Die. Tonight she takes to the stage in a delicate floral gown accessorised with a tiara – an outfit that echoes what she wore at her Glastonbury performance earlier this month. That appearance was controversial because Del Rey was 30 minutes late and therefore cut off 30 minutes early thanks to the Other Stage’s ruthless curfew. The result being that five or six of Del Rey’s best songs were culled, leading to disbelief and even tears among the crowd. Del Rey, a notoriously tardy performer, is relatively punctual this evening, running only 20 minutes behind. Thankfully, she is permitted to finish her set in its entirety.

The crowd reap the rewards, because tonight she sounds far more self-assured and impressive than she did two weeks ago in Somerset. “Young and Beautiful”, her second song, written for the soundtrack of 2013’s The Great Gatsby, is particularly memorable for its poignancy and urgency. Afterwards, she sits at a mirror to have her hair adjusted as she huffs on a vape to huge roars from an audience used to seeing her perform with a signature cigarette. The bomb-drop of the bass on “Cherry” sounds like it’s breaking the Hyde Park stage, juddering through the crowd like an earthquake. There is a magical moment during “Arcadia” when the audience – perhaps inspired by Del Rey’s celestial backdrop – spontaneously lift up their phone torches to shine like stars in the night. “Thank you for your lights,” sings Del Rey playfully in response.

Perched on a gold piano, Del Rey closes the first part of her set with “Candy Necklace” – only the second song she has played from her latest album. “I think this is where I got cut off last time,” she announces to the crowd, alluding to her curtailed Glastonbury gig. It’s a shame that performance had to end that way, because Del Rey’s last four songs are bangers. “Diet Mountain Dew” is reimagined with a playful swing, almost as a big band number.  Then “Summertime Sadness” hits like heatstroke. It is the biggest song of the evening, burning through the crowd like wildfire. Del Rey stands silhouetted in front of a giant sun, in a scene that calls to mind Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia”. “F*** yeah!” shouts Del Rey. “When you show up, you show up!” And thank the cosmos she did. Sitting on a swing covered in flowers for elegiac closer “Video Games”, Del Rey looks ethereal. In London long ago, perhaps there was a time when she lay in the gutter – but her eyes were always on the stars.

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