Despite the imposing heat and clear cerulean skies of this mid-July afternoon, an electricity pervades on the streets of bustling Brixton. Tonight’s show is a rare treat for those who were lucky enough to snag a ticket or two. The endless meta-bubble of Americana, Lana Del Rey, performs tonight at the O2 Academy Brixton and the excitement is palpable in the low rumble of the patrons queuing outside. 5 years on from her debut album Born To Die and the mystery present in one of contemporary pop’s most beguiling stars still holds strong; this is the first show since the release of her fourth album Lust For Life, which would go No.1 both here in the UK and in the US later the same week.
And for all of the glamour that regularly adorns the glossy promo shots, Del Rey is fairly modest tonight in her apparel – a long-sleeved black t-shirt and dark jeans. The remarks are modest too; she limits herself to chirpy coos and thank yous throughout the night. It all seems like a bid to maintain the mythic distance, to hold something back so we’ll lean in closer. It’s the iconography and embellishments that do much of the talking for her. A makeshift screen provides an apt cinematic backdrop for Del Rey, like that of a drive-in movie theatre. The music videos propel the aesthetic in direct inverse to Del Rey’s closeted alter ego. Above Del Rey is her last name, cast in the blinking neon of American diners, the kind of haunt you might find Lana slinking around in.
“Above Del Rey is her last name, cast in the blinking neon of American diners, the kind of haunt you might find Lana slinking around in.”
From the new album we hear just three tracks surprisingly: ‘Cherry’, ‘White Mustang’ and lead single ‘Love’, which offers up the surprise highlight of the evening. For reasons that remained unexplained, Del Rey’s backing band couldn’t play the track. ‘Fuck it,’ she says matter-of-factly, ‘I’m going to do it a cappella’. Lana’s croon just about rises above the 4,000 strong crowd bellowing back at her.
Elsewhere in the set there’s a calculated mix of songs from her previous three albums and her EP Paradise, including a rare performance of ‘Ride’. Lana leans heavily on a sprawling repertoire, highlighting how the tone has altered marginally from record to record. Opening track ‘Cruel World’ delves deeply into ’60s psychedelia before Born To Die staples ‘Video Games’ and ‘Summertime Sadness’ widen the palette with more sombre hues. Capitalising on a decorated but varied timeline of tracks and albums seems crucial to understanding the fragments of Lana’s complex aesthetic. Alongside the cleverly-constructed stage adornments, the tracks pivot ever so slightly on a patented algorithm of melancholy, Americana and pop culture. The final track, an extended instrumental of ‘Off to the Races’, plays out like the closing credits as Lana collects bouquets and signs autographs in the front row. There’s no encore, just a kiss and a wave goodbye. It leaves us wanting more but that’s the intention.