After the politicians, came royalty. Days after the Brighton Centre hosted Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, it was the location for a dazzling display from one of pop’s brightest lights – one Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, known to us mere mortals as Lorde. At an age where most of us struggled to get out of bed on time let alone anything else, she has just dropped Melodrama, her second world-conquering album. One of the most-talked about records of 2017 in any genre, it was followed by a sensational star-making turn at Glastonbury. Already, this could be the last chance that Brighton gets to see her before an inevitable rise to stadium-levels of fame and glory.
Preceding her on stage was fellow musical prodigy, Khalid. Balancing the supreme confidence of a 19-year-old with the tunes and moves to match, he put on a show easily the equal of many headliners both performance and production-wise. His touring band gave the likes of ‘8TEEN’ a Prince-like funk, but it was of course his platinum-single ‘Location’ that took the roof off the already-packed venue. Strange as it was to see people leaving after his set, it was testament to his appeal and ability that some had travelled across the country just to see him rather than the headliner.
From the very offset, Lorde’s show itself was a masterful piece of pop art. Following a burst of static on a side-stage TV, clips from an array of TV highlights played in quick succession before a neon spaceman flickered into light. Easing in with her slower Disclosure-featuring track ‘Magnets’, she then unleashed the first of many bangers with ‘Tennis Court’. Starting the party by dropping that so early, what followed over the next 90 minutes or so was peerless pop of the highest order. Cutting the set into three acts with a couple of intermissions used for a change of costume, Lorde had her mainly (but not universally) young fans eating out of the palm of her hand with loud screams after her every utterance. Two balletic dancers on either side of the stage added to the artistic element but, overall, it was simply left to Lorde and her songs to put on a show.
There’s no doubting Lorde’s iron-clad emotional connection with her fan base. During an introduction to ‘Liability’, what could have been a cheesy dialogue around empowerment and overcoming loneliness instead resulted in the young audience hanging off every word. It’s easy to be an old cynical gig-goer about these moments, but it was clear that she means the world to her fans and vice versa. Her cover of Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’ was rolled out with mixed success, before a finale that showed just why she is so highly regarded. By its close, ’Supercut’ had Lorde and most of the room bouncing like they were alone in their bedroom, and each song from there forced an even bigger reaction. ‘Royals’ was a knockout, ‘Perfect Places’ and ‘Team’ were absolutely massive moments with even the majority of the normally reserved balcony-goers going crazy before ‘Green Light’ finally took the roof off.
The scenes during the closing few songs were infectious and energising in a way that only the spectacle of 4,000 people absolutely losing their shit can be. At points, you could still see the Ella Yelich-O’Connor that would once have been dancing and singing alone in her bedroom – completely accessible and inspirational to her fans in a way that is warming and encouraging to see. Very few pop stars connect with their audience like this these days, rather than simply concentrating on the bottom line and streaming ratios. The more that the likes of Taylor Swift disappear into their own ‘Verified Fans’ bubble, the more Lorde stands out as a likely successor to the Queen Of Pop title.