The New Zealand singer previewed new album 'Melodrama' in an artistic set on the festival's first day
“I’m not a very good pop star,” Lorde announces to the heaving crowd gathered at Governors Ball’s main stage tonight (June 2), citing her need to pause for a quick rest as proof. Out of breath or not, the rest of her set totally invalidates that claim – from start to finish she’s everything you’d want a modern pop icon to be.
Her set begins with her striding on stage clad all in black, save for the white, lacy veil covering her face. As she makes her way to the centre of the stage, she begins singing ‘Green Light‘ and what sounds like the whole festival sings with her. Just as the pre-chorus is about to kick in, she stops and moves seamlessly into ‘Tennis Court’ instead, whipping off her veil at the same time. It’s the kind of move only a professional could pull off.
Everything about Lorde is art, from the veil reveal to her music and lyrics to the way her stage is decorated tonight. Behind her, a giant glass box stands on two platforms. At the start of the set it just looks like an empty shark tank, but as things progress, it fills with people writhing around, dancing in unison or acting out scenarios from her songs.
Halfway through, after a serene ‘Buzzcut Season’ and new song ‘Homemade Dynamite’, Lorde herself gets in the box and joins her dancers in bouncing up and down to ‘Ribs’. Next, as a bewitching ‘Sober’ progresses, the box tilts downwards. At the song’s end, a panel at the end of the box opens and the singer elegantly drops backwards into the dancers’ waiting arms. It’s simple, but delivered with so much poise and finesse, you can’t help but be impressed.
Back outside, the New Zealand star invites Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff, who she co-wrote and produced forthcoming second album ‘Melodrama’ with, to join her at the piano that’s sat stage left. There, sitting side by side, they cover Robyn‘s ‘Hang With Me’, Lorde holding the mic to Antonoff’s face when it’s his turn to sing. “Robyn was a big influence on ‘Melodrama’,” she explains beforehand. “This song isn’t too far from the DNA of [that album].”
After, she looks at the crowd in wonder. “It’s really weird, we sat alone for so long,” she says gesturing to the man beside her. “We’re hermits, we don’t have any friends.” “Now we have so many,” Antonoff chimes in. He leaves the stage after an emotionally charged ‘Liability’, but she’s not quite done with him yet, chasing him and wrapping her arms around him from behind. Where so many pop stars never let their otherworldly facade of cool fade, Lorde manages to find a balance between incredibly real and superhuman.
‘Perfect Places’, a firework of a song dedicated to those nights spent running around the city getting drunk on booze and life, gets a sparkling live debut and then its time for the real fireworks. Lorde circles back to where the night began, this time seeing ‘Green Light’ all the way through. “This is the most important one,” she says by way of introduction. “This is the one where if you have some little thing you need to work out of yourself or some person pissing you off. You’ve got to put that energy somewhere. Give it to me now.” The Gov Ball crowd don’t need telling twice and, as red and green flares light up the sky, crackling and banging above, everyone gets lost in the song. To spark that kind of reaction you’ve got to be quite a good pop star. Lorde just happens to be a great one.