By James Murphy
When New Zealand Grammy winner Lorde last visited Adelaide in 2014, the sun was still rising on her career, as she played a mid-afternoon set in Port Adelaide during St Jerome’s Laneway Festival. While she already possessed stadium-ready anthems like ‘Royals’ as a teen, with nine more orbits around our solar system’s celestial body, Lorde has transformed herself into a shining star.
Lorde’s polarising third album, Solar Power, is a homage to the healing power of the sun, summer crushes, beers and sunbaking; a marked juxtaposition from the darkened room melancholy of Melodrama. Identified as a gifted child by her poet mother and civil engineer father, Lorde grew up doubting whether she’d ever fit in. As she sat perched upon a giant sun dial shaped staircase while the piano chords for ‘Liability’ tinkled in the background, she explained that she began song writing as an attempt to be understood; having her lyrics screamed back at her by thousands was an outcome that she never believed was possible.
While Lorde’s literary lyrics, honed by a childhood spent devouring her mother’s reading lists, capture a universal reality, she doesn’t quite see the same world as everyone else. When she hears sounds, she sees associated colours; it’s known as chromesthesia. During her career spanning set, which encompassed the wobbly bass hip-hop electronica of Pure Heroine, the lush expanse of Melodrama and the East Coast psychedelia of Solar Power, the colours shifted, as the central orb projected at the rear of the stage transitioned from blue and white midday sunshine to rich red sunsets, and all the spectrum in between. Backed by a band dressed in golden yellow who, in their robotic movements and uniform dress resembled a brainwashed Californian cult, Lorde began dressed in sky blue, changed to pinks and purples, and midnight black. It was an evening of thematic consistency, a synthesis of sounds, light and shadows, a window into a genius mind.
It was Adelaide’s first opportunity to hear recent hits like ‘Solar Power’, ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ and ‘Mood Ring’, but also Melodrama’s ‘Green Light’, ‘Sober’, ‘Homemade Dynamite’, ‘Supercut’ and ‘Perfect Places’. She promised not to leave it so long between visits next time. On her current tour, she has been supported by female and non-binary LA three-piece Muna, who won new fans with their fusion of pop with country, and their songs of gender and sexual inclusivity, such as ‘Silk Chiffon’ and ‘I Know A Place’. For the first song of Lorde’s encore, she was joined by Muna for their song, ‘Kind of Girl’, which is explores themes that are similar to Melodrama’s ‘Liability’: the perception that you are too much and, as a result, leave relationships a mess; Lorde was so emotionally moved by the rendition that she shared vocal duties with Muna’s Katie Gavin.
Lorde has resolutely refused to conform while succeeding in an industry where the pressure to do so is immense; her dancing remains intuitive, not choreographed; hit albums are followed by stylistic shifts, not more of the same. Powered by the sun and a remarkable brain, Lorde is now pop royalty.