Chatter hushes and screams erupt when we hear a smokey disembodied voice begin to sing. The set opens with the Melodrama highlight “Sober,” an evolution to the party anthems of Lorde’s first album, and while her lyrics set the weekend scene, the audience is eyeing the abstract shapes created by her squad of dancers. After a moment of tease, Lorde bounds from the shadows and takes her place front and center.
“I heard it is a Monday tonight. I want us to put aside what we know to be Monday because, Sacramento, you’re gonna dance tonight.”
She’s not wrong. Lorde (her real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor) loads up the first half with high-energy tracks that keep the Golden 1 Center crowd gyrating throughout. She shows off an impressive gusto when bouncing from one side of the massive stage to the other, engaging all corners of the audience and stretching her body in moves perceptible to even the top balcony.
She practices what she preaches: The word “dance” appears in almost every track on Melodrama. While the 21-year-old has been critiqued for her awkward movements in her performances, her dancing can also read as exquisitely natural. I find myself mirroring her movements throughout the show.
A few songs in, Lorde pulls off an impressive onstage costume change from her initial white ensemble to a witchy black crop top and full skirt. With this metamorphosis, she transitions the party vibes of the first half of the show into a thoughtful exploration of her slower songs. “Yellow Flicker Beat,” an original song written in 2014 for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I, opens with a reference to the bad man it was written about and a timely call out to the fact that “a lot of bad men are getting their comeuppance” these days.
Yolky yellow light washes the stage and the dancers contained in the glass box suspended behind her. The chosen color is not an accident. In a 2017 interview with NPR she explained her experience of synesthesia, a neurological condition in which sensory stimuli are involuntarily crossed with other senses, e.g. the ability to hear colors and see sounds. This condition was an influence in the making of Melodrama.
“All of a sudden the color of the record was so present and vivid and it was just the craziest—just this sort of rain of violets and blues. And it was so intense, and that sort of came to shape the rest of the record,” she said. Lorde has created a small version of this synesthetic experience in her live set through the illuminated tones of yellow, pink, blue, red and green conflated with music and sounds.
“Writer in the Dark” stands out as the emotional crescendo of the album and of this show’s set. Lorde sits center stage and reflects on the love lost that brought her back to herself. “This is a song that I wrote alone for the most part […] about confronting exactly who I am: A vivid dreamer, an overreactor, a fucking Scorpio… But most of all, a writer.”
Heartbroken and alone, the power is found within herself to stand on her own two feet, a power that was always there. She pushes back on that pain the only way she knows how, through a platform of words and music. By demonstrating vulnerability and courageous self-love, Lorde invites each of her fans to find such a power within themselves, too. The darkened stadium flickers with cellphones in a sea of twinkle lights, sensory signals from thousands of broken hearts to hers.
Following a soulful cover of Frank Ocean’s “Solo,” marked by not-so-subtle undersea imagery, another costume change is made for a magenta jumpsuit and the move-your-body energy of “Supercut.” The song harkens back to the haunting thought patterns of breakups and the tendency to recall only the good as you replay a failed relationship in your mind.
On her sophomore album, Lorde’s lyrics evolved from tales of teenage angst into metaphorical investigations of tiny moments that shape the human experience. And nothing reads more human than the few times where her well-trained voice breaks into a guttural scream, expelling the raw emotions words sometimes fail to express.
Surprisingly, “Royals” is the most lackluster song of the night, with a heavy reliance on audience participation to keep interest in 2013’s overplayed breakout hit. Even so, “Green Light” ends the main set on a high note.
“This song is something I poured everything I had into. All of my joy, all of my rage, all of my tears, all of my jealousy, all of my forgiveness… So I need you for this one, Sacramento! Any of those emotions that you happen to be holding onto right now, will you let go of them with me for this song?”
I dance like no one is watching, even though I can feel the eyes of my less-enthused neighbors looking on from a seat over. But I don’t care because Lorde gave me permission to pour my heart out. And she is dancing with me.
2. Homemade Dynamite
3. Tennis Court
5. Buzzcut Season
6. 400 Lux
8. The Lourve
9. Hard Feelings
10. Yellow Flicker Beat
11. Writer in the Dark
12. Solo (Frank Ocean cover)
14. Sober II (Melodrama)
17. Perfect Places
18. Green Light
20. Precious Metals