Lana Del Rey review – cool cipher opens up a Lynchian dreamworld

Brixton Academy, London
Launching her album Lust for Life, Lana Del Rey’s newfound politics are nowhere to be seen – but her melancholia is magnetic

Lana Del Rey has thrived by pitching herself as the antithesis of a 21st-century pop star. She values privacy and understatement, emitting a forcefield of self-containment that stops even the most ardent admirer from getting too close. Her outlier persona ushered her 2012 breakthrough, Born to Die, to 7m sales, and the strategy is still potent: the just-released fourth album, Lust for Life, is currently outselling everything except Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott. On stage, apart from a few incongruously chirpy remarks – “Oh my gosh, thank you so much!” are her first words tonight – she’s a cipher, gliding through her hour-long show in a state of serenity-noir. At times, it’s as if there’s no “there” there.

Yet she strikes an emotional chord with the young women who have queued around the block all afternoon. Del Rey is an idealised version of them – talented, beautiful, impossibly cool. Who wouldn’t fall a little in love with a singer who serves up something that nobody else does, layering irony, nostalgia and subtle menace into a package that would make David Lynch swoon? Coincidentally, or not, tonight’s rendition of Blue Jeans has the precise twangy foreboding of Wicked Game, the Chris Isaak song featured in Lynch’s Wild at Heart.

Screams erupt when she wanders to the front of the stage; most impressively, the fans already know the three Lust for Life songs that have been discreetly embedded into the setlist. When for unexplained reasons her band can’t play the album’s first single, Love, Del Rey says: “Fuck it, I’m going to do it a cappella,” and is drowned out by 4,000 voices singing it with her.

The new album is Del Rey’s first to engage with politics – quite a progression for an artist whose previous records languidly highlighted the misery of loving Mr Wrong – but nothing of the new conscious tone filters into this performance. Not that it’s a problem, because what’s offered is the chance to sink into in her dusky dreamworld. Video Games, accompanied by footage of 1960s biker films, acquires deeper melancholy; Summertime Sadness has her switching from her sombre lowest register to jazzy crescendos, in service to a song about contemplating crashing her car after a romantic desertion.

A lengthy, psych-rock take on Off to the Races ends the night. There’s no encore – Del Rey is an expert at leaving people wanting more by holding something of herself back.

Contributor

Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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