Live Review: Lana Del Rey

Scala/Corinthia Hotel, London, November 22nd

So the Scala gig comes and goes, giving the UK’s media their chance to experience this quite preposterously talked about singer ‘in the flesh’, so they can ascertain whether or not a) she is ‘authentic’ and b) she has another song in the same league as everyone’s Song Of The Year. The answer to the former is… well, no, but apart from the indier-than-thou bloggers who seemingly spend their entire lives looking for videos of the Lizzie Grant Years to post with a gleeful ‘See? Told you!’, is anyone really that arsed?

Say these people had been around in the early ’70s: would they have been going around telling everyone that Bowie sang in an ice cream advert, or that Marc Bolan modelled for a Littlewood’s catalogue (both are true)?

Anyway… a more conclusive answer to the latter, more important, question can be found not at the Scala show, or the gig in Birmingham the next night, but at an intimate show the week after, in the bar of the Corinthia Hotel in London. “Stripped back” is of course a phrase that strikes fear into the heart of any right-thinking person. But by playing her songs minus the balloons and the projections, backed only by minimal piano and guitar, Lana affords us an opportunity to examine her melodies and words at close quarters.

And the bottom line is… they’re good. Very good. On this evidence, there will be another two or three big singles, no question at all. Beyond that little-bit-try-hard “Let me fuck you in the pouring rain” line (she censors it to “kiss you” tonight), ‘Born To Die’ is as subtly anthemic as ‘Video Games’. ‘China Doll’ sticks in your head and doesn’t move. ‘Radio’ is – by her standards at least – an out-and-out pop song. There is the odd phrase that grates (“You were sorta punk rock/I grew up on hip-hop” from ‘Blue Jeans’ being the biggest offender), but it’s pretty impossible to deny that these are great songs, full of character and personality and uniqueness that no-one else is conjuring right now. Yeah, it’s very studied and very divisive, but if you can’t get past that then… well, you just should. Don’t be put off by the bloggers going on about how her video was ‘fake’ or whatever. Don’t hate the video, hate the games. And let a little Lana in.

Hamish MacBain