Review: Lana Del Rey at Verizon Theatre

Posted 10:04am on Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014

Lana Del Rey was feeling it.

“I feel really lucky to be singing in front of you,” she told the shrieking throng packed into the Verizon Theatre Wednesday, “because there’s a connection, and you get it.”

To call the behavior of the sold out room “a connection” mightily undersells it — men and women of all ages reacted in a manner generally reserved for boy bands.

Phones were held aloft from start to finish, straining to capture every moment; the words to every single song being sung, passionately, at the top of their lungs; apocalyptic screams ringing out every time Del Rey (born Elizabeth Grant) moved so much as a centimeter on the Verizon stage.

It was remarkable to witness, if a bit baffling.

As she wound down the set opener, Cola, the barefoot Del Rey descended from the stage and walked up to the railing only just holding back the crowd pressed against it.

Once there — attendees could be heard over her microphone shouting “I love you!” — Del Rey took her time posing for several selfies, signing autographs and letting the song more or less trail off behind her.

The show, it seemed, was secondary to basking in the adoration.

And, perhaps, in Del Rey’s case, the need for such a balm is understandable.

After all, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter was pilloried two years ago, during the release of her breakthrough LP Born to Die, thanks to an abysmal Saturday Night Live performance, leading many critics to dismiss her outright.

But Del Rey hung on, thanks to radio smashes like Summertime Sadness and her contribution to The Great Gatsby soundtrack, Young & Beautiful, and will release her third studio album, Ultraviolence, later this year.

She previewed a track from the forthcoming record (the just-released single West Coast) Wednesday, but otherwise kept the focus of her lean, 75-minute set on previously released material. The stage, dressed in shades of SoCal Gothic, looked like a funeral parlor on a lanai — candelabras next to palm trees, and a wicker chair draped just so with sheer fabric.

Backed by a four-piece band — for all the attention they were paid, it may as well have been a laptop loaded with backing tracks on stage — Del Rey worked through much of Born to Die, including Blue Jeans, Carmen, Million Dollar Man and Video Games.

Her songs, fueled by her forceful contralto, fixate on the romantic notion of love intertwined with death, making her catalog emotionally monochromatic. It’s hypnotic in small doses — Video Games remains a surprisingly effective evocation of teenage ennui — but laborious in longer stretches.

Part of the problem is Del Rey seems immune to subtlety: as she sang the title track for Born to Die, a video played behind her on a postage stamp-sized screen, of a hunky male model making out with her, before she died in a fiery car crash, her body streaked with blood. All that was missing was someone shouting at the audience, “Do you get it?!”

This crowd on this night, however, did not mind at all. They wanted her misery — demanded it, baying like a pack of wolves for her despair, and uninterested in whether she was actually feeling all the sads or not (judging from her repeated grins, cast back in the direction of her bandmates, I’d argue she was on cloud nine Wednesday).

It’s a peculiar, albeit underserved, niche in the pop game — most mainstream acts relentlessly shill escapism — but one that doesn’t leave Lana Del Rey too many places to go.

Can a lengthy, satisfying career be built out of mining the depths of self-absorbed pity?

Possibly, but receptions like the one granted Lana Del Rey Wednesday tend to be more evanescent than permanent.

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

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