Review: Lorde at South Side Ballroom

Posted 9:26am on Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2014

For just a moment Tuesday night, Lorde lowered her guard.

Nearing the end of her debut Dallas performance, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter felt compelled to reciprocate the adulation she’d been receiving since stepping onto the South Side Ballroom stage.

“I wrote this song a year ago, during my school holiday,” the woman born Ella Yelich-O’Connor began, her words slicing through the shrieks. “I was scared about getting older and growing up. … I’m glad I can play it real loud for you guys, because nothing makes me feel less scared, so thank you.”

With that, the New Zealand native launched into the skittering Ribs, which prominently features the line “It feels so scary getting old.”

It’s worth noting at this point that Lorde is all of 17 years old, but the sentiment is one that transcends age. (I found myself nodding assent at the ripe old age of 33.)

That vulnerable insight and ability to reach not only the roaring mass of youth at the foot of the stage, but also the more weathered souls scattered amid the sold-out room is arguably what has helped Lorde, thus far, stand apart from her Top 40 contemporaries.

She has also carefully constructed a most diffident persona, detached and ironic, which catapulted her single Royals into the stratosphere. That attitude, as much as anything else, likely accounts for a healthy chunk of her appeal — nothing succeeds in pop music like pretending you couldn’t care less.

The moment of confession Tuesday night pierced that veil, however briefly, before it was put into place once more.

The 70-minute set from the singer, herself a fascinating mix of contradictions — a gothic misfit who landed center stage at the Grammys; an outsider who has found a way to deftly critique American consumer culture — felt thin, largely because she has but one album, last year’s Pure Heroine, to her credit. (She filled in the set list with a pair of covers — the Replacements and Son Lux.)

Accordingly, much of the crowd’s vociferous reaction to her every movement — I haven’t heard screams like that since Justin Timberlake’s stop at the AAC a few months back — felt out of proportion to what she has accomplished thus far. She is on her way to being an artist of intriguing substance, but she hasn’t quite gotten there just yet.

Many of the tracks from Pure Heroine ( Buzzcut Season, White Teeth Teens, Biting Down, Team) don’t deviate from the diffuse, mid-tempo, hip-hop and dream pop-appropriating vibe of Royals, and despite a vivid light show, her two band members and the occasional graphic projected behind her, Lorde is relying on pure charisma to bridge the gap from intimate album to sold-out, spacious rooms.

And yet, she just might get there. Clad in black and flitting from one side of the stage to the other, not unlike St. Vincent’s witchy twitches, Lorde held the audience in the palm of her hand from start to finish. It was a magnetic moment, even if not every last person in attendance felt the pull.

So, where to from here? Lorde only knows.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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