Lana Del Rey Does Her Thing At The El Rey Theatre
With hair as puffy as her beestung lips and a voice that straddles the line between a drawl and a coo, Del Rey's made a name for herself as a quirky, but sometimes unreliable, performer.
That came into full force with her nervous "Saturday Night Live" performance back in January, in which Del Rey seemed shaken and out of it the entire time she was on camera.
This, along with the controversy over Del Rey's past, made her and her music a curiosity — propelling her album "Born To Die" to mixed critical acclaim and relative commercial success.
But that mystery makes Del Rey even more of an idol in her fans' eyes, who liken her persona to that of a "gangsta Nancy Sinatra," an image that she cultivates in both her wardrobe and in her on-stage antics.
And that image was in full force at the El Rey Theater Sunday night, as Del Rey performed for the first day of a three-day run at the venue.
Del Rey played to a sold out crowd, a solid mix of women and men, with members of both sexes rocking floral wreath crowns. As her band took the stage, the crowd whooped and hollered, only to burst out into a roar when Del Rey finally floated her way onto the stage.
Wearing a simple white dress and her hair up "beauty queen style," Del Rey crooned through what seemed to be a random mix of tracks off of "Born To Die." With the exception of new track "Body Electric," Del Rey stuck to the singles off of her album along with a couple of other tunes like "Million Dollar Man," "Without You" and "Lolita," with the last two tracks being bonus tracks off of the special edition of the album.
Song choices aside, any doubts audience members might have had about Del Rey's performance disappeared from the very beginning of the set. Looking at past performance videos, it's clear that she's never going to be a singer/dancer in the vein of artists like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry or Rihanna, but instead of making her performance boring, it makes the moments where she does break out of her full-on space cadet mode all the more thrilling.
Indeed, the most captivating moments of the show occured with Del Rey would play up the sexuality of her songs in a cheeky manner, such as when she changed the lyrics in "Born To Die" from "Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain" to "Let me fuck you hard in the pouring rain."
And while most of the time, she wandered around the lush rainforest paradise-cum-video screen stage in what seemed to be a daze, her vocals were spot on and powerful, especially in "Without You" and "Video Games." She seemed at ease with the audience, letting the crowd fill in the lyrics blanks in tracks and coyly smiling and engaging the crowd in brief moments.
The most disappointing part of the show did have to be its 45-minute run time. While tickets for Sunday night, as with the other two nights, were only $20, the show felt more like a festival set than a full fledged performance.
There were plenty of other tracks that Del Rey could've performed to round out her hour-long allotted performance time—"Diet Mountain Dew" and "Radio" immediately come to mind—but instead, she awkwardly left the stage at the end of "National Anthem."
In fact, that was the only moment in which Del Rey actually acted in accordance with the inexperienced image that those who don't like her and her sound often cast upon her, but in an era in which artists come back for encores and double encores, it was almost refreshing that Del Rey left her set with such finality. It's a shame that her final performance of the night was so flat and stolid compared to the earlier numbers in her set.
With two nights left to go, it'll be interesting to see what she does differently in each of those performances. But as far as a first night intro goes, there is no doubting Del Rey's musicality and ability to deliver, only her engagement with the audience and its temporal expectations.
Show set list:
"Born To Die"
"Million Dollar Man"
Read Neon Tommy's review of Lana Del Rey's "Born To Die" here.